Two of the main factors that affect the total cost of an organization’s Microsoft 365 subscription are the subscription plan (E3, E5, etc.) and the number of licensed users. Since each Microsoft 365 user needs a license, it’s easy to assume that unlicensed users are not allowed to access any of the Microsoft 365 resources. However, this is not the case. Microsoft allows guest access to Teams and various other Microsoft 365 resources. This isn’t to say that unlicensed users can access all of the same Microsoft 365 resources that licensed users can. Unlicensed users are restricted from accessing the bulk of the Microsoft 365 features. Even so, Microsoft does allow unlicensed users (or guest users) to access Teams.
This makes sense when you stop and think about it. Microsoft wants Teams to be everyone’s collaboration platform of choice. It would be difficult for Microsoft to drive large-scale adoptions of Teams if users were only able to use it to collaborate with others within their organizations.
Enabling guest access to Microsoft Teams
Enabling guest access to Microsoft Teams is a relatively easy process. To begin, log into the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. Next, click on the All Admin Centers option and then launch the Teams Admin Center. Now, expand the Org-Wide Settings tab and then click on the Guest Access tab. As you can see in the figure below, this tab includes an option to allow guest access to Teams.
As you can see in the figure, guest access is enabled by switching the Allow Guest Access in Teams setting to On. When you do, however, the Teams Admin Center exposes a number of additional settings related to guest access. These settings allow you granular control over what guests can and cannot do.
The first of these settings, which you can see in the figure below, is the Make Private Calls setting. This setting is enabled by default when you turn on guest access, but you can block the guest’s ability to make private calls by setting the Make Private Calls option to Off.
Just below the Calling section, you will find the Meeting section. This section allows you to either allow or deny guest users to use IP video and to use the Meet Now option. You also have the ability to configure guest user’s ability to share their screen during a meeting. Teams gives you the option of preventing guests from sharing their screen. If you do decide to allow screen sharing for guests, you can decide whether to allow guests to share their full screen or to limit screen sharing to a single application.
The Guest Access tab also includes a section that allows you to configure various messaging related settings. For instance, you can control whether or not guest users will be allowed to edit or delete messages. You can also allow or block access to some of Teams’ more whimsical features such as giphys, memes, and stickers. Incidentally, if you do decide to enable giphy use, you can enforce a content rating.
Allow or block access
Teams also gives you the ability to allow or block access to chat and to the immersive reader. You can see the Meeting and Messaging related settings in the figure below.
The screen shown in the figure above makes it easy to assume that if you want to allow guest access to Teams, then all you have to do is to turn on the Allow Guest Access setting and then pick and choose which features guests should be able to access. In reality, though, this is really just the first step.
The next step in the process is to configure Azure AD’s business to business settings. To do so, you will need to go into the Azure Active Directory Admin Center, and then navigate through the console to Users | User Settings. From there, you will need to click on the Manage External Collaboration Settings option and then choose how guests can gain access to your organization. As you can see in the figure below, for instance, you can opt to make it so that users can invite guests, but guests cannot invite other guests.
The next step in the process is to make sure that guests are able to access group content. If you forget to enable this particular setting, then guests won’t be able to access Teams.
Enable group access
To enable group access, go back to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and then go to Settings | Org Settings. Next, select the Services tab and then click on the Microsoft 365 Groups option. Select both of the checkboxes shown in the figure below, and then click the Save Changes button.
You should now be returned to the Services tab. You will now need to click on the Security and Privacy tab. Click the Sharing option found on this tab and then select the checkbox to allow users to add new guests to the organization. You can see what this looks like in the figure below.
The last step in the process is to make sure that SharePoint is configured to allow content to be shared with guests. To accomplish this, open the SharePoint admin center and then go to Sites | Active Site. Now, click on a site and then choose the Sharing option. You will need to make sure that external sharing is enabled for either Anyone or for New and Existing Guests.
Enabling guest access to Microsoft Teams: More than meets the eye
As you can see, there is a bit more to enabling guest access to Microsoft Teams than what initially meets the eye. If you need additional help with the process, then Microsoft provides a checklist for enabling guest access, which you can find here.
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