Posted by: John Ferringer | April 24, 2012

External Users in Office 365


  1. One caveat, your PALs don’t get profiles – no MySites for them.

    • Great point Dan, I knew I was forgetting something when I was thinking that through. I would think though that in most external collaboration scenarios there isn’t a compelling reason as to why you’d want them to have a MySite, is there?

  2. What about anonymous users – are they possible?

    This blog item of course deals with specific users but I was wondering whether I could sign up for SharePoint Online as a (cheap) way to have a web site for anyone to look at.


    • That’s a great question Mike. The answer to your question is Yes, but probably not in the way that you mean.

      It is not possible to grant anonymous users to a specific SharePoint Online site collection or subsite like you can in SharePoint Foundation or SharePoint Server on premises. Office 365 does differ from BPOS in that it does provide subscribers with a public facing website, but its not really SharePoint. It’s a very lightweight site that has some similarities to SharePoint, but it definitely does not offer the full set of features that SharePoint’s Web Content Management functionality offers or even much of SharePoint’s standard design surface. I think its descended from the public facing website that was available through the old Office Live service, rather than SharePoint itself.

      How those public sites are structured within the environment differs a bit between the P SKUs and E SKUs, a situation I’m planning on covering in a future blog post. I’ll try to get that out sooner rather than later, given this discussion 🙂

  3. Thanks, John. That clears that up nicely. It seems odd to offer SharePoint but not offer SharePoint if you see what I mean. “Derived from Office Live” is really odd.

    I look forward to your article which I hope – apart from clearing up the difference between P and E SKUs – also goes a bit into the limits of what you can do in a public site.

    (Can you for instance put a standard SP List there is a question that I would hope will be be included there).


    • Thrilled to help Mike! I agree what you mean about not delivering SharePoint’s WCM capabilities with the public site, but I do somewhat see MS’s perspective on it… To the best of my knowledge there’s really not an SLA around that public site, so they don’t want them to turn into something that is going to get crazy high traffic in a shared environment.

      The interesting thing is that when it all boils down to it under the covers, it’s running on SharePoint. There’s quite a few blogs out there that talk about how you can go in and enable the Publishing Feature for that top level site, apply a Minimal Master Page, and use the WCM functionality in your public O365 site. But, and to me this is a big “but”, it’s not at all supported by Microsoft. So if anything goes wrong, you’re not going to get any help. Or, if they decide to lock that down at some point, you’re going to be out of luck. I suppose that if you do enable all that you may be able to leverage a SharePoint list in your site and display it but I’m not sure, nor have I tried to do that in the stock public site.

      Here’s a few different posts that talk about what you can do with the site as well as how you can go about enabling the SharePoint WCM stack if you want it. I’ve moved this topic up to the top of my Blog Post To Do list; my plan is to compare the O365 public site with SharePoint’s customization abilities and explain the differences, rather than just a run down of what you can do with the public site. (And I’ll break that all out from the P to E comparison post, I suspect they may both get lengthy)

    • Changing the look and feel of the O365 public site:
    • Outlining both options for changing the look and feel of the O365 public site:
    • Quick rundown of the differences between O365’s public site and SharePoint WCM. It’s very brief, but has good links:
    • A writeup about the O365 public site and turning it into a SharePoint WCM site:

By: John Ferringer on April 25, 2012
at 2:53 PM


  • When I test this procedure for my P1 account, the EASI ID users can’t sign in. I’ve even created new gmail-based Live IDs to test it. When I accept the invitation in gmail, it goes to an Office 365 page( that offers Hotmail or MS Online Services ID check in only. Neither work. I get:
    “Microsoft Online Services is unavailable from this site for one of the following reasons:
    This site may be experiencing a problem
    The site may not be a member of the Windows Live Network”

    Please advise.

  • External users was the reason I signed up for Office365, but I was dissapointed to learn how it was implemented. As an attorney, my clients are usually only active for several months. The prospect of paying for a user seat to get them into the system without jumping through hoops (Hotmail, LiveID, etc.) countermands my practice of offering lower legal fees to clients (if they are on for 6 months, do I really want to shell out $48 for the User Seat without raising my already low fees?).

    However, given the clunkiness of having to use Hotmail or Live ID (try explaining that to clients), I see no other alternative. I get that MS doesn’t want huge traffic to clog the system with free external access. This is a situation I think where O365 users like me would be more than willing to pay a few extra bucks a month to get a set number of PALs, and then pay more if I exceed the limit. I’d even be willing to pay additional for extra bandwith. Paying $24 for an E3 is great (I do it too primarily for the Office 2010 licenses on up to 5 machines), and I can see paying $30 or $35 for E3 with the PAL usage/bandwith usage. All of this just so that I can have a simple login screen that the client can enter “Login: client’s own email, Password: whatever they choose”.

    This would be so much better than the current system of BRANCH A: go to Hotmail, sign up, or BRANCH B: Associate LiveID with their e-mail. These extra steps, I am afraid, will deter clients, appear clunky, and/or cause me (a solo attorney) to spend precious time on customer support (“How do I log into your site?”) – this despite even posting the most detailed explanation of how to do it under the current system.

    Sorry for the rant. Great post!

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