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Teams: The difference between external and guest access.


As organizations start adopting Microsoft Teams, it’s something users and remote employees consistently encounter how to take advantage of guest access AND remote access. You might think, “Why would you emphasize the EN’? Aren’t they the same? The short answer: no, they’re not. The purpose of this Blog is to explain the differences between guest access and remote access and then split the layers of external sharing into Microsoft Teams. Let’s get started!

Teams: The difference between external and guest access.

Guest access vs. remote access

Before we can explain the differences, we must first define exactly what each means. Then we split the nuances of what separates the two.

Determine who 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.” In other words, people outside your organization can access existing teams and channels in teams.

Guest Access Teams Overview

Use guest access to add an individual user (regardless of domain) to a team, where they can chat, call, meet, and collaborate on organizational files (stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business), using Microsoft 365 or Office 365 apps like Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. A guest user can get almost the same Teams capabilities as a native team member. For more information, read Guest Access in Teams.

Guests are added to your organization’s Active Directory.
To communicate with a guest, the guest must be signed in to Teams with their guest account. This means that a guest may need to log out of their own Teams account to sign in to your Teams account, or switch organizations if it’s the same account.
Guest users have access to more resources in Teams – such as files, teams, and channels – than external (federated) users.
The Teams admin determines everything a guest can or can’t do in the Teams Admin Center. For more information, read Manage Guest Access.

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Accessibility for guests

Fortunately, anyone with an email address can access guest access and access team chats, meetings, and files they’re invited to. If you’re an admin, you can make sure guests don’t have full access to your organization’s Teams tenant; fortunately, and you can configure the settings as desired (see below).

Teams: The difference between external and guest access.

It’s also important to note that guest access is associated with an organization’s Azure AD, Office 365, or Microsoft 365 service limit.

Remote Access Teams Overview

Define remote access

Remote access is defined as “a way for Teams users from an entire external domain to use Teams to search, call, chat, and organize meetings with you.” This means that if you work for Company A that uses Teams, and a colleague from Company B gives you remote access to their Teams tenant, you can seamlessly switch between the two within the Teams app to communicate with that colleague.

Use remote access (federation) when you need a solution that allows external users in other domains to search, call, chat, and set up meetings. External users don’t have access to your organization’s teams or team resources. Choose remote access when you want to communicate with external users who are still on Skype for Business (online or on location) or Skype (coming in early 2020).

Remote access is enabled by default in Teams, which means your organization can communicate with all external domains. The Teams administrator can disable or specify which domains to include (or exclude). Read Manage Remote Access for more information.

If you want remote users to have access to teams and channels, guest access may be a better way.

Installation and general external access scenarios

When it comes to setting up remote access, there are three settings you can choose from: open federation, allow specific domains, and block specific domains. Open federation is the default setting in Teams and allows users to find, call, chat, and organize meetings with anyone outside the organization.

With the ability to “allow” and “block” specific domains, organizations can dictate which external groups have access. If only a few 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 remote access in the tenant of your organization:

People in your organization should contact specific companies outside the organization

  • Let team users in your organization communicate with S4B Online users with third-party organizations
  • Enable team users to communicate with Skype users

Key job comparisons: guest access vs. remote access

Now let’s break down some of the key similarities and differences between the two characteristics:

Teams: The difference between external and guest access.

What access fits which scenario?

Before we consider which scenario suits which access, it’s important to mention that you can take advantage of both options! They’re not mutually a deal.

Whether you want to use guest access or remote access plays a role in determining the scope of your collaboration. If you want a way for remote user domains to find you, call, chat, and set up meetings with you, remote access is the right choice.

If you want an individual user to have access to a team where they can chat, call, meet, and collaborate on company files stored in Teams SharePoint or OneDrive, guest access is the better option. The most important thing to note for guest access is that a guest user can get almost all Teams capabilities as a native Team member unless otherwise set by the administrator.

And there you have it! A breakdown of the function equation between guest and remote access and scenarios in which you can and should use both for external collaboration. If you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments below!

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