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Microsoft Teams: External Access vs. Guest Access

Published: at 06:19 AM

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Over the last two years, there has been a huge uptick in Teams usage. Many organizations haved embraced Microsoft Teams, something that users and external collaborators consistently run into is how to take advantage of guest access and external access. You might ask yourself Aren’t they the same?” The short answer: no, they are not. The goal of this post is to explain the differences between guest access and external access and then break down the layers of external sharing in Microsoft Teams. Let’s get into it!

What is a Guest?

Microsoft defines guest access as allowing users to “add individual users from outside your organization to your Teams and channels in Microsoft Teams.” For example, people outside your organization can get access to existing Teams and Channels in Teams.

Guest Accessibility

Fortunately, anyone with an email address can be granted guest access and have access to Team chats, meetings, and files they have been invited to. If you’re an admin, you may want to make sure guests don’t have full access to your organization’s Teams tenant. You can configure the settings as based on your organization’s needs.

What is External Access?

External access is defined as “a way for Teams users from an entire external domain to find, call, chat, and set up meetings with you in Teams.” This means that if you work for Company A who uses Teams, and a colleague from Company B grants you external access to their Teams tenant, you can switch seamlessly between the two within the Teams app to communicate with that individual.

Common External Access Scenarios

When it comes to setting up external access, there are three settings you can choose from: open federation, allowing specific domains, and blocking specific domains. Open federation is the default setting in Teams and enables users to find, call, chat, and set up meetings with any person external to the organization.

With the ability to “allow” and “block” specific domains, organizations can dictate which outside groups can have access. If only a couple of key partners need it, using the “allow specific domains” route would be the best option.

Some of the following scenarios are the ideal times to set up external access in your organization’s tenant:

Key Feature Comparison: Guest Access vs. External Access

External Users AccessFeatureGuest Access Users
YesUser can serach for users accross external tenantsNo
NoUser can share filesYes
NoUser can be added to group chatYes
YesUser can be added to a meetingYes
NoUser can access Teams ResourcesYes
NoAllow meet nowYes

I hope this provides clarity on Guest vs. External access in Teams.