Five ways to share with people in Microsoft 365

By Linda Parkinson-Hardman on

Share to collaborate

The ability to quickly and easily share documents and files with other people is one of the biggest benefits of collaboration suites like Microsoft 365. I still recall the first time I ‘shared’ a file that a bunch of people could all work on at the same time; the relief was overwhelming and it felt as if a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders as I realised the power that now afforded me. No longer would I have to attach files to emails and send them out in the sure and certain knowledge I would have a huge amount of work to do when they all came back with changes. Not to mention the amount of behind the scenes negotiation that took place to work out whose change took precedence.

Even with track changes turned on, the amount of time and effort expended to get one file ready to deliver was enormous. And I well remember the number of times I would be frustrated by the ‘locked file’ that was opened by someone who was now on leave for two weeks. Assuming we all remembered that copies had been created, the task of bringing them all in line when said colleague returned usually fell on my shoulders. Inevitably though, we’d turn up at a meeting and the file would be opened and someone would say ‘why is it different?’; this was the point we realised we’d been working on completely different documents, assuming it was the same one!

All that being said, even as sharing is quick and easy, it’s not the done deal it’s often presented as. And that’s because context, in Microsoft 365, is everything. In this post then, I want to share with you how you can share files in five different ways, each of which has a different impact on both you (as the sender) and on the recipient(s).


1. Teams Channels

This is perhaps the easiest way to share a file in Microsoft 365. Simply upload it and every member of the Team, assuming the channel is public and not private, will be able to access it and ownership is shared across the team members. However, therein lies a problem – what if you now need to share that file with someone who isn’t a member of your team?


2. Teams-Connected SharePoint Site

Which brings me to sharing number two. Every Microsoft Teams workspace has a connected SharePoint site. It’s actually where all the files you upload into a channel are stored and the easiest way to think about it is to visualise the Teams workspace as a large filing cabinet, where each channel is a drawer that houses files and documents.

The SharePoint site has more sharing functionality and is very similar to OneDrive in that you can share a file (or entire folder) with anyone according to the sharing policies applied in your organisation. If the ‘share with anyone’ policy is applied, then I can literally share it with anyone inside or outside the company.  


3. From within the document

The third way of sharing an Office document such as a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file is from within the document itself. And it applies to any document stored in your Teams workspace or OneDrive. Simply open the document and use the ‘share’ link you’ll find in the top right-hand corner of the screen to again share it with anyone else, regardless of whether it is in a Teams workspace or not.  


4. Outlook

The fourth easiest way to share a file is by attaching a file to an email in Outlook. When I click the paperclip, what pops up is a list of the documents I’ve most recently opened or edited. If you look down the list, you’ll see they are in a mixture of locations, some in OneDrive, some in Teams workspaces, some in a separate SharePoint site and some in local or shared drives.

If they are stored in a Microsoft 365 location, I can attach them as a shared document. If they aren’t I can either send a separate copy to each recipient, or upload it to OneDrive and share a single copy with the group.  


5. OneDrive for Business

The reason I’ve left OneDrive to the last is because in many ways it’s the hardest to fathom in terms of context. OneDrive for Business is designed to hold my personal files and documents, things I’m working on that I’m not yet ready to share, or files I’m working on with a small group before sending to a wider team. It’s also the place where (mostly) I must take a definitive action to share something.

In other words, I have to choose to do so, rather than have it shared by default as with options 1 and 2. There is a caveat to that though and that’s if you’ve shared a folder in OneDrive, anything you add to the folder will inherit the same sharing permissions – the message is to be careful sharing folders!


So what?

You may be thinking “so what?” And that’s where context comes in. For me to know where I should start or save a file, I need to know what I will ultimately do with it, and who it belongs to. If it’s something my team should have access too just in case I’m sick or on leave; or if it’s a joint piece of work with my colleagues, then our shared Microsoft Teams space is the most obvious location.

If it’s something that I only want to share with my manager, perhaps part of a PDR process, then OneDrive makes much more sense as I can control who sees it and what they do with it. And if I need to share wider than my team but it’s still a team file, again it makes sense to store in our shared Teams workspace and use either the document sharing capability, the connected SharePoint site or Outlook to send it to the others who need it.

The conclusion to all these options is that it pays to take some time to think about how, who and why you are sharing a file or document. Picking the right location keeps things safe and secure, picking the wrong location opens a can of worms you might wish you’d never had a can opener for.


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Silversands is a Microsoft Gold Partner and specialises in Microsoft 365 delivered across Azure cloud and hybrid IT environments. As well as technical consultancy we also have a professional Adoption and Change Management practice. We provide help with things such as user adoption audit, knowledge and learning plans, communications plans, privacy impact assessments (PIA) and equality impact assessments (EqIA).

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