Now small businesses can have them too.
For many years SMBs have lived in walled communities, sharing information freely within their own organisation but mostly using only email to communicate with others. While enterprises have been using extranets to communicate with their customers, suppliers and partners, these solutions have generally been too expensive for SMBs.
What is an extranet? The Wikipedia definition is an extension of an organisation’s intranet that is extended to users outside the organisation in isolation from all other internet users.
SharePoint Online, the document management and collaboration platform which is part of Office 365, includes the ability to create extranets. Each Office 365 customer receives 50 Partner Access Licences (PAL) for free to allocate to external users and can buy more if necessary. These can be reallocated to other external users at any time, which can go quite a long way for SMBs who want to share information.
Microsoft recently announced (at least internally) that it would increase the number of free access licences to 500 for small business customers on the P1 plan and to 10,000 for customers on the enterprise plans.
Partner Access Licences are like full SharePoint Online users with a few limitations:
- PALs are granted different permissions by the site admin, either Read, Contribute or Own
- PALs that are Owners have the ability to invite other PALs
- PALs can read documents but cannot edit them via the Web Apps
- PALs can get site feeds but they do not get a personalised webpage called MySite, can’t receive company feeds, nor can they follow others
For SharePoint Online customers inviting external users to collaborate on documents is a simple three-step process:
1. Click on Site Actions
2.Click Share Site
3. Enter the email address of the external user and determine if you want them to be visitors (read only) or members (contribute).
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.