Microsoft has just added some new functionality to SharePoint Online that will enhance its ability to share information not just around the enterprise, but also outside the firewall. The new functionality should also help it combat the rise of file sharing applications.

The File Sharing Threat

News of the added functionality appears on the Microsoft blog in a post by Mark Kashman, senior production manager with SharePoint. Starting now and rolling out internationally over the coming days, users will be able to share documents from SharePoint libraries, create anonymous guest links directly from Office 365 and share with everyone in email contact lists with a single click.

The enhancements, available through Office 365 or SharePoint Online, could make it easier to share content with collaborators.

One of the biggest problems with doing this has been the security issues of opening up enterprise networks to external users, but this new functionality addresses this by enabling enterprises users share content outside in a way that will make even network administrators happy.

Getting work done often requires working not only within the company boundaries, but also working beyond the firewall with external business contacts. To enable this, Microsoft is offering these simple file sharing possibilities to business users.

The new functionality also continues Microsoft’s attempts to keep users away from file sharing services that could tempt them away from Office 365 altogether.

We saw recently that many users of enterprise content management systems (ECM) are getting frustrated by the complexity of ECM and turning to the likes of Dropbox and Box to share information, whether IT permits the use of these applications or not.

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SharePoint Online content sharing

SharePoint Online Content Sharing

With this announcement, Microsoft is offering simple content sharing that should keep at least some users away from these file sharing suites. In all, it is offering three new ways of sharing content:

1.Link Creation

Once this functionality is in place, users will be able to create a link to content directly from SkyDrive Pro or on the SharePoint Online libraries’ interface, which can be sent to users with either view or edit permissions behind it.

For security reasons, the link can be deactivated once the purpose of the share has been completed, thus preventing the document being access by unauthorized users. It has also been merged with the “invite people” tab, a “Get Link” tab and “Shared With” tab so that documents can all be shared from the same place.

2.Members Share

Sharing documents and content, however, will not be random and the existing permissions and protocols for content and document security remain in place. However, Site Administrators will now be able to enable site members to send sharing invitations to recipients inside the enterprise as well as to recipients outside the firewall.

While this takes some of the difficulty and awkwardness out of sharing content by enabling approved site members take initiatives, it also keeps everything secured because all the security permissions remain in place.

3. Email invites

The final addition to SharePoint Online’s sharing capabilities is the addition of email list sharing. By this, Microsoft means that you will be able to share with multiple people in email lists at the same time from a single email address.

This means that all those that are typed into the address bar will automatically be able to see the content, although external recipients will still have to be invited, and accepted, using the external sharing process associated with Microsoft.

The new external sharing functionality is available to all Office 365 for Business users although the Office 365 dedicated plans are not receiving this same update right now as they are managed in a unique, isolated infrastructure. More from Office 365 soon.