What is FatCow Hosting?
FatCow is a web hosting provider that was founded in 1998 in Burlington, Massachusetts. The company offers a single shared hosting plan marketed at entry-level webmasters, such as small business owners. FatCow was acquired by Endurance International Group in 2007.
How Good is FatCow Hosting?
FatCow markets to beginning website owners, and makes a very appealing case for their business. Offering just one inclusive plan, they take away a lot of the stress of choosing the features that are right for you. And with a very affordable introductory rate, FatCow seems to be one of the best prices for beginner web hosting on the market. But while FatCow offers refreshing simplicity and transparency in some ways, their plans are riddled with deceptive and redundant upsells, poor speed and uptime, and high renewal rates.
Our Official FatCow Hosting Review
There are several things for which we will gladly praise FatCow hosting. Namely, they offer a clean and simple short-term webhosting solution that is not in the least daunting to the uninitiated. However, it is our opinion that FatCow is a poor choice for anyone looking to host a website beyond the period of their introductory pricing offer. The below average speed and uptime, confusing upsells, and mediocre customer service can be forgiven for $4/month. But when those rates spike to nearly $13/month after renewal, these issues are much more damning.
Best Features of FatCow Hosting
Where FatCow excels is in ease of access. From their whimsical name and mascot to the single shared hosting plan they offer, they manage to soothe much of the technical angst a beginning webmaster may feel when picking a webhost and a hosting plan. Plus, there is no denying that their introductory pricing is a fabulous deal. Here is what they do right, and why they may be worth your consideration:
One Single (Mostly) All-Inclusive Shared Hosting Plan
A one-size-fits-all-beginners plan obviously isn't a great fit for someone who builds or maintains websites for a living. But FatCow's target audience is the uninitiated, and they do a great job of simplifying their product to be digestible for beginners. They offer just one shared hosting plan that includes unlimited domains, unlimited email addresses, unlimited diskspace, plentiful bandwidth, drag-and-drop site building tools, digital advertising credits, and a free domain name for the first year. The process of narrowing down precisely what one needs from a webhosting provider can be terribly intimidating and stressful for an entry-level webmaster. We appreciate that FatCow has offers plenty of transparency and simplicity from the get-go.
Lock In a Great Introductory Pricing Rate for up to Three Years
For those registering with FatCow for the first time, their introductory rate is just $49/year, or about $4/month. Considering that their package is fairly competitive with a free domain name (for the first year) and lots of storage for email and web files, this is a pretty tremendous value. What's more, if you are willing to pay upfront, you can lock in this very low price for up to three years.
Free Advertising Resources
As with the bulk of EIG-owned web hosts, getting on board with FatCow comes with the perk of lots of digital advertising credits. This includes $100 in both Bing and AdWords credits, as well as a free listing on YellowPage.com. Sure, YellowPage.com is rather outdated and the effectiveness of online directories is questionable, but free is free.
Powered by Wind Energy
If you are at all sensitive to corporate sensibilities, the fact that FatCow is owned by EIG may be a bit of a turn off for you. That is understandable, but FatCow does have some redeeming and very un-corporate qualities. Namely, they have a green seal that verifies them as 100% powered by wind energy. They accomplish this by offsetting the power consumption in all of their data centers, servers, and offices with a 200% investment in renewable energy certificates.
Downsides of FatCow Hosting
Despite their beginner-friendly structure and marketing, there are a handful of red flags associated with FatCow that you should consider before signing up with them. While we maintain that their services are a good value for the introductory pricing, there are several reasons that FatCow is not a good fit for a long-term web hosting solution.
Renewal Rates Spike 310%
FatCow's introductory pricing is a great deal, and you can lock it in for up to three years if you pay upfront. However, be prepared for some serious sticker shock once that period is over. FatCow's yearly pricing surges from $49/year to $155/year, leaping from budget hosting company to one of the more expensive options on the market in a single turn of a calendar page. Now, we're happy to pay premium prices for premium services. However, as the rest of our review will show you, FatCow falls considerably short of qualifying as premium.
Very Slow Page Load Times
As their name might suggest, FatCow hosting is not speedy. In fact, page load times have consistently scored far below the industry average every single month for the last few years. Where the industry average for page load time sits around 700ms, FatCow averages at over 1200ms. That is seriously slow, and could be a huge detriment for your website. Not only can it damage your search engine rankings, but can also dramatically increase your visitor bounce rate. With such lagging servers, it is unlikely that you'll ever be able to take advantage of the plentiful bandwidth they promise you upon signup.
Below Average Uptime
On the whole, EIG-owned webhosts don't have the best track record with uptime averages. iPage is a perfect example of this, while Web.com might be the exception. While FatCow doesn't have the worst uptime average we've ever come across, it is below average, and that's something that should concern any potential customer of theirs. FatCow just squeaks by at 99.9% uptime, half of the time falling short of this mark. To put things in perspective, most webhosting companies offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee, meaning that they will issue partial refunds for any downtime beyond that allotted 15 hours per year of downtime. FatCow offers no such guarantee, and their track record isn't terribly reassuring either.
No VPS or Dedicated Servers
FatCow only offers one type of hosting: shared hosting. Sure, this takes a lot of the analysis-paralysis out of the initial decision making, but it can also be a detriment to existing customers who experience a lot of growth. By not offering dedicated servers or VPS lines, they are alienating entire audiences require or could grow into requiring these services. This means that if you’re in government, health care, or otherwise are storing sensitive information, FatCow isn't a good option for you.
FatCow uses a custom control panel instead of cPanel. While this isn't necessarily a con, it is a deviation from the industry standard. This is something to consider if you are used to cPanel, of if you plan to take advantage of the fact that help resources related to cPanel abound on the web. This may also be something to consider if you plan on leaving FatCow in the future; some webhosts will only transfer over your website from a webhosting company that also uses cPanel. A Small Orange is one example.
Poor Customer Support Reputation
Customer support can be hard to judge, but there are some key indicators of how seriously a company prioritizes their customer service department. For one thing, it is usually a good sign if a company has invested in building out a robust library of self-help resources and trouble-shooting guides. While FatCow has done this to an extent, they are nowhere near the level of GoDaddy or HostGator. FatCow's user guides focus primarily on setting up your website, not more advanced topics or trouble shooting issues.
For those problems that can't be solved through the DIY resources (of which there are countless possibilities), FatCow also offers phone, email ticket, and live chat support. While this range of options is commendable, turnaround time for all three channels is less than speedy. Expect to wait around 15 minutes on hold or in the queue for chat support, and over a day for a response via e-mail. To make matters worse, it appears that customer support reps are trained primarily as sales people rather than as support staff. Here are some of the upsells you can look forward to declining should you choose to sign up with FatCow:
Deceptive and Redundant Upsells
While we congratulate FatCow for making the initial first-glance of their services very transparent, it is a different story come check out time. Be prepared to be bombarded with little add-ons worded in terribly confusing language. Be careful not to pay for their “WordPress hosting”, which is a terribly cryptic way of saying that you can pay them to pre-install some mediocre plugins that you could otherwise find for free. Also watch out before you buy Google Apps (Hint: Google offers these for free) or Automatic Daily Backups (Hint: this is already included in your package). For those in the know, this is a huge turn off. Offering these add-ons as “services” is essentially just preying upon beginners who don't know any better.
FatCow could be a great short term option for someone looking to test out a bunch of things across different domains, but the fact of the matter is that their services aren't terribly reliable. Slow page load times and mediocre uptime might be tolerable for the low introductory price, but these issues become seriously damning with their renewal rates. We recommend them if you have very specific short term needs with a budget to match, but not as a longterm hosting solution.
FatCow Hosting Questions and Answers
FatCow Hosting: What you Need to Know
FatCow Hosting has a name that is humorous, a Web site filled with whimsy — and a long track record of satisfied customers. Among these thousands of Web hosting companies, though, a few things make the company stand out from the others. We took a look at the company’s values and products and found that, aside from its name and logo, FatCow Hosting has solid plans that have made these customers happy.
How did FatCow Hosting start?
The company is one of the oldest hosting companies out there, with founder Jackie Fewell start in 1997, and launching in 1998. After only a few short years, the company experienced tremendous growth, increasing revenues by about 25 percent each year and expanding the profit margin from 4 to 11 percent.
This growth, combined with the loyalty of the customer base and the consistently solid product offerings, caught the attention of Endurance International Group, a growing parent company of more than 75 different hosting companies. Fewell, who was at the helm of FatCow for more than seven years, stayed on as vice president of marketing when EIG purchased FatCow in 2004. After resigning, she served as an advisor before moving to another industry.
Like many other companies that have been purchased by EIG, FatCow had excellent customer reviews that lost some of their excitement following the acquisition. They continue to state that they are dedicated to provide real business value to their customers by giving them excellent customer service and meeting their needs by using a one-plan, one-price philosophy that even those new to hosting can start using right away.
What sets FatCow apart?
FatCow Hosting is governed by its HeiferCratic Oath, which they say is dedicated to “supporting and creating creativity.” The oath states that they want to recognize and nurture the passions of their customers through their chosen mediums by offering around-the clock support that will help customers resolve any situation with a positive attitude. They want to give their customers a pleasant and easy online experience.
To that end, FatCow has placed itself in the position of a clean, easy-to-understand and navigate signup process, comprehensive support and care, and integration with a number of different service providers. Unfortunately, many customers who appreciated this at the beginning have found that since the acquisition, FatCow is falling into the norm of not meeting its published and promoted expectations.
What kind of shared hosting plans does FatCow offer?
FatCow’s original plan, uniquely named The Original FatCow Plan, costs users only $49 for their first year. Customers get unlimited domains, disk space, and bandwidth — capped at “oodles,” which means that as long as you’re complying with their terms of service and not exceeding the normal use to operate a site of your size, you should be ok and not facing any serious penalties.
In addition, FatCow provides other unlimited resources, like FTP users and sub users and POP e-mail mailboxes. You also get a free domain name, as well as the tools get it up and running, like Web site builder with a free subscription to Script Barn, SSL security, shopping cart integrations, and 1GB of storage on JustCloud.
After the first year, the plan has various renewal options, from $14.95 per month for a one, three, or 12-month term, $13.95 per month for a 24-month term, or $12.95 per month for a 36-month term.
Does FatCow offer any dedicated server services?
FatCow Hosting has a sliding scale that can meet dedicated server needs at three different levels. All plans come with cPanel, which is the industry standard and is a great feature, a free domain name, and CentOS 6.4 for their operating system.
Dedicated hosting also comes with 24/7 support from their experts, which means that as your site grows, you’ll get high levels of security and performance, with a fast response time for your visitors. Customers who opt for dedicated servers have complete control over their private servers. They can create unlimited domains and sub domains, POP3 accounts, MySQL databases, and FTP accounts, come with 13 different preinstalled scripts, and includes error and referrer logs, raw log access, and AWstats.
- The Startup plan includes 2 cores on an Intel XEON E3-1220LV2 3.5 GHZ server, with 4GB RAM, 500GB storage, 5TB of bandwidth, and three IP addresses, for a starting promotional rate of $119.99/month, which will renew at $149.99/month.
- The Professional plan includes 4 cores on Intel Xeon E3-1265LV2 3.2GHz server with 8GB RAM, 1000GB storage, 10TB bandwidth, and four IP addresses. The plan has an introductory discount of $151.99/month, and renews at $189.99/month.
- The Enterprise plan includes 4 cores with 16GB RAM on an Intel XEON E3-1230V2 3.7 GHZ server with 1000GB storage, 15TB bandwidth, and five IP addresses for $191.99/month (renews at $239.99/month).
What if I want something in between shared and dedicated hosting at FatCow Hosting?
VPS hosting, or virtual private servers, are semi-private servers that have fewer customers than a shared server, and give you a level of control that is closer to dedicated hosting with a price that is lower than a true dedicated plan. You get expert support 24/7, and it’s a great way to accommodate growing sites with flexible resources.
FatCow Hosting’s VPS plans include cPanel, along with optional root access or a fully-managed plan. Plans also get a free domain registration, along with the script and log plans included in dedicated hosting plans. These plans also include unlimited domains and subdomains, POP3 accounts, MySQL databases, and FTP accounts.
There are three different plan options, all of which include CentOS 6.4.
- The Basic plan starts at $19.99/month for the first term, and renews at $24.99/month. The plan includes 1 core CP and 1GB RAM, with 40GB storage, 1TB bandwidth, and one IP address.
- The Business plan, which starts at $47.99/month for the first term and renews at $59.99/month, includes 2 core CPU, 4GB RAM, 90GB storage, 3TB bandwidth, and two IP addresses.
- The Optimum plan includes 4 core CPU, 8GB RAM, 120GB storage, 4TB bandwidth, and two IP addresses for $79.99/month in the first term and $99.99/month after renewal.
Does FatCow Hosting have any special plans for WordPress?
They offer two shared WordPress focused plans, both of which have a customized control panel, pre-installed themes and plugins like W3 Total Cache and Jetpack. A partnership with SiteLock increases your security and protection by eliminating malware while you sleep, and they optimize your server by limiting the number of customers, giving you top speeds and consistent uptimes.
- WP Starter, the basic plan, includes a free domain registration, along with the unlimited disk space and bandwidth, for $3.75 per month for the first term of service.
- WP Essential, which costs $6.95 per month for the first term, includes a greater option of themes and plugins, the deluxe security bundle, 24/7 expert support, and SSD-based servers that increase your speed. This plan also includes a free domain registration.
What is FatCow Hosting’s uptime, and is it guaranteed?
While FatCow Hosting doesn’t offer any guarantees on its uptime now, in the past, they offered a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, which meant that your site would be down for less than 45 minutes each month. Customers today have seen an average 12-month uptime of 99.89 percent, which is an average of about 47-and-a-half minutes of downtime each month. There have been some months, though, when customers had a 99.99 percent uptime — giving them an outstanding uptime that mean there were less than five minutes of downtime each month.
The average isn’t bad, and is close to what others are also offering, and if you hit a month with a good uptime, you’ve got a greater benefit. Unfortunately, though, many of these other companies are guaranteeing their uptime, which often means you’ll get credits for any downtime, and that isn’t an option with FatCow Hosting.
Are there any guarantees with FatCow Hosting?
On the bright side, FatCow Hosting does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee for customers who aren’t happy with their hosting plan. Their guarantee is similar to most others, noting that you’ll get a refund for the services provided by FatCow Hosting; third-party fees, including the $15 domain name registration. This does mean, though, that should you decide to change companies, you can take your domain name with you.
Keep in mind that, unlike other companies, FatCow Hosting only makes this guarantee available to customers who paid with credit cards when they registered.
How can I get started?
FatCow has a relatively easy sign-up process, without a lot of extra pushes to add to your sale. What we like about FatCow Hosting is that, since they have included cPanel on most of their plans, they can offer free transfer for almost all Web sites. This means that once you’ve decided to switch to FatCow, their techs will move your site to their servers and will ensure everything was just as you’d designed it to be before going live.
Does FatCow Hosting offer green solutions?
The company wants to keep their — and everyone else’s — pastures green by using eco-friendly options. Their offices and data centers are completely powered by wind energy, offsetting energy use by 200 percent; for each KWH of electricity that FatCow uses, the company buys twice as many renewable energy certificates toward generating wind-powered energy. As a result, they have been able to keep 999 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.
Where are their servers hosted?
FatCow’s data centers are in Boston, where they have multiple petabytes of storage spread out over thousands of storage. Together, these centers make up more than 2,400 square feet of storage. Through their pooled servers, the first machine that is available for shared plans will be the one to serve the customers seeking to access a customer’s Web site, which, they say, makes for a faster loading time and less downtime.
Does FatCow offer any kind of backups?
The company has network-attached storage that lets any machine access data. Through the clustered networking, each machine is matched to an identical machine that will take charge in case there is a crash or problem with the primary unit. Backups are made to another server set with a mirror copy of the data.
The company’s terms of service clearly states, though, that customers are responsible for backing up their Web sites, content, and e-mails, to a local computer, along with an additional copy. FatCow does have some temporary backups for VPS customers, but only maintains them for a short time in case there is a failure in the hardware; the company doesn’t guarantee these backups.
How is FatCow’s customer service?
The company used to receive rave reviews for their service, but in the past few years, customer have complained of long lines for customer support, inconsistency for those with plans that include expert support, unresolved problems, and little empathy for customers who are experiencing these situations.
They do offer more than one way to reach them, from emailing or forms, to telephone and live chat, and note that their support team is available 24/7 to help. In addition, they have an extensive knowledgebase and user guides for frequently asked questions.
Do we recommend FatCow?
Compared to other hosts, FatCow has a thorough plan that is very cost-effective for the first year. Their dedicated and VPS plans would probably be best for those who have some experience, but the shared and WordPress plans offer an extensive list of features and benefits to help improve your Web site and give you the Web site your business needs to grow.
- Eco-friendly Web hosting Solution
- Unlimited Domains
- Super Accessible for Entry-Level Webmasters
- Free Advertising Resources
- No VPS or Dedicated Servers
- vDeck Instead of cPanel
- Limited SSL Certificates
- Misleading Upsells
- Below Average Uptime and Poor Speed
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