What is FatCow Hosting?
FatCow is a name you may not have come across in your journey to find the right web hosting service.
It’s a pretty small company—though it was founded in 1998 and has therefore been around as long as some of the best in the biz, FatCow’s name hasn’t exerted as much pull as its other, larger, competitors.
And yet, FatCow has managed to stay afloat in a very competitive area of online business for two decades—so clearly, it’s not too shabby despite its size.
And this leads us to wonder—what is up with FatCow?
Is it staying alive by luck, or is it a hidden gem in the hosting world?
In this review, I’ll take a look at FatCow and discuss my experience using it.
I’m happy to report that this underdog is a solid hosting company, but there are a few caveats to look out for.
So—let’s get to it!
Overall: The Cons
FatCow is one of the more nuanced hosting companies that I’ve reviewed.
I like it, or at least I want to, especially because it’s a relatively small contender in a large pool of hosting companies.
However, there are a few things that FatCow doesn’t do the most competitively, and it’s my job to highlight those flaws.
So let’s get it over with quickly.
First off, the price: FatCow focuses on simplicity, but the result is that its shared web hosting package is a bit pricey.
Moreover, it’s just one package—you can’t opt for a cheaper package with fewer features, just the one package that may be above your ideal price point.
Other competitors certainly offer shared web hosting packages for lower prices and similar amounts of features, which makes this unfortunate.
Another downside is FatCow’s customer support: I found their knowledge base to be a little shoddy.
A redundant link here, a how-to article that uses another hosting company’s video there, and so on…all things considered, their customer support isn’t terrible, but far from the most robust, I’ve seen.
The good news is that’s about it for FatCow’s flaws.
The pricing structure is a little too simple for shared web hosting, and a bit expensive for shared web hosting depending on what you’re after.
Its on-site documentation could be revamped.
Other than that, it’s decent—so let’s get into that fun part!
Overall: The Pros
Thankfully, FatCow does have some good things going for it. The first thing I want to look at is the simplicity of the pricing structure.
Yes, if you want to get shared web hosting, you might find FatCow’s pricing a little too restrictive to get something tailored for your needs, especially if you’re trying to save money.
However, if you want WordPress, VPS, or dedicated hosting—well, FatCow’s structure actually makes things very easy.
WordPress hosting has two tiers that are both well-featured and not significantly priced apart from one another.
Dedicated and VPS hosting have the same features, and getting a different package really means getting more server accommodations than tools.
It’s very streamlined and makes it hassle-free to get those options.
The other thing is also related to its shared web hosting package: if you want a cheap option that doesn’t need to have every feature, FatCow isn’t the place for you.
But if you’d get the highest tier of shared hosting for a heavier toolkit on another platform, then FatCow’s price is actually not so inexpensive.
If you want all those tools and accommodations, it’s not overpriced.
It’s overall a well-featured platform, so I give them credit for that.
Moreover, their security is pretty solid. It’s not the best—I do think they might be able to employ a harder security infrastructure and more cyber-defenses—but I appreciate their on-site transparency.
Finally, their simplicity can drag them down with shared hosting prices and customer support, but overall, they are a very easy to use service. It’s streamlined: as mentioned, the pricing is simple, but so is the actual software itself.
It certainly has an easy learning curve and a pleasant user interface.
Combining that with a good set of features is a worthy accomplishment that every hosting company has to hit, and I appreciate FatCow’s success.
Now, let’s look into pricing a little more.
Something I like a lot about Fatcow is the simplicity of its pricing.
Everything is extremely straightforward; you don’t need to dig around too long to figure out how many services you can buy.
So let’s keep that simplicity going, eh?
First off we have the option most of you will be looking at: shared web hosting, which FatCow calls “The Original FatCow Plan.”
The Original FatCow starts at $49 a year—this is a special introductory rate that will increase after your first term—which evens out to roughly $4.08 per month.
The renewal prices are $14.95 a month for a year-long term, $13.95 for a 2-year term, and $12.95 for a 3-year term. Frankly, these are very pricey—I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t for a different hosting package.
But nope, that’s for its standard, shared web hosting service. Of which, by the way, there is only one option—it’s not a tiered product from which you can choose packages with fewer features for a lower price.
WordPress hosting, a staple hosting product for most services, starts at $3.75 a month and ends at $6.95 a month.
Yes, there are only two tiers, WordPress Starter, and WordPress Essential—but hey, they’re decently priced and WordPress Essential seems to be fully featured.
Virtual Private Servers start with a Basic plan, for $19.99 per month for the first term ($24.99 afterward), and end with Optimum at $79.99 ($99.99 regularly).
Of course, these are discounted for the first terms; once that period is over, you’ll pay $149.99 for the Startup (first tier) package and $239.99 for the Enterprise (third tier) package.
Overall, WordPress hosting is pretty cheap on FatCow, and VPS and Dedicated server hosting with FatCow is also well-priced.
The only issue is shared web hosting: it’s $49 for the first year isn’t too overpriced, but it’s still much more expensive at over $4 a month than what many other leading providers offer—which is more in the $2-3 range.
When you renew it, however, the price rises dramatically. If you commit for three years, you still pay $12.95 a month. To put things in perspective: GoDaddy and Bluehost renew at $7.99 a month, and that’s for a year-long package.
So overall, I would say FatCow’s shared web hosting option is overpriced, but its other options are very fair and still worth considering.
So let’s talk about features—the thing that will really determine how well-priced a package is!
Overview of the Features
Usually we focus on the features for shared web hosting, because it’s typically the most sought-after hosting option.
As FatCow’s shared web hosting is overpriced, however, we’ll try to talk a little more about every other service they offer.
Shared hosting has a decent set of features—decent insofar as it might mediate the price a bit.
Of course, there is the actual hosting itself, as well as an easy site-builder, application installation wizards, and online store tools, email, SEO and marketing tools, and customer support.
It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, a free domain name, unlimited mailboxes, unlimited disk space, and no caps on bandwidth.
It’s easy to view these as generous—however, you could also get these features for simply upgrading to a second or third-tier shared hosting package on a different platform.
This is really only worth it for your first term of use; after the renewal causes the price to rise, you might as well go elsewhere.
The WordPress hosting packages offer free domain registration, unlimited disk space, and unlimited bandwidth as well. More interestingly, they offer free search engine marketing credits, which is pretty neat for the Starter package’s low price.
The features for VPS hosting are more or less the same between tiers: the increase in price basically accounts for an increased number of cores, RAM, storage, and bandwidth. You can calculate the price yourself here.
The same is true for Dedicated hosting plans: what increases really is capacity, not tools, between price points.
Overall, I would say dedicated and VPS hosting plans with Fatcow are about as fully-featured as on any other platform, and competitively priced (or at least normally priced).
WordPress hosting seems to be a pretty good deal with FatCow, regardless of which tier you get, although it’s not necessarily the best deal for WordPress hosting out there.
Shared web hosting has a pretty good set of features—the only problem is it’s a bit pricey.
You might be getting a good deal for that first year, paying around $4 a month for what could be twice that on another platform, but after your first term, the renewal price is so significant that I’m not sure it’s worth it.
That being said, it sounds like FatCow doesn’t really struggle with having the right amount of tools or having a good amount of the right tools—just price.
How does being able to juggle these features pan out for the user?
Let’s find out.
Ease of Use and User Control
Having a combination of ease of use and flexibility is pretty essential. FatCow markets itself as a platform for small-to-medium businesses.
One would, therefore, expect FatCow to offer enough power to satisfy business needs, but a service that is streamlined and simple, to make things easy and efficient.
This is how every popular hosting company markets itself, but FatCow specifically names simplicity as one of the company’s founding premises.
The good news is that FatCow does indeed succeed in this regard. You might have seen it a little bit in the pricing and features sections: even when you’re looking at what to buy, there isn’t really an overwhelming amount of choices.
Shared hosting has one package with every feature. WordPress hosting has only two packages. For VPS and dedicated server hosting, the tools you get are the same—the only thing you pay more for is extra accommodations and space.
Even if you’ve visited their site, everything is extremely simple and easy to navigate. The same is true for the site once you’ve logged in. You won’t need to dig around much for anything.
All website builders are easy to use—that’s their goal, after all—but FatCow’s is no exception. This video, from their help page, is a good demonstration.
Managing your account, email, domains, and so on, are about as easy as that website builder. As a matter of fact, the website builder is probably one of the more complicated things you’ll have to deal with.
All things considered, FatCow does great with ease of use, without sacrificing your ability to control your account or site.
Something that adds to FatCow’s ease of use factor is its solid customer support. As with most platforms, FatCow offers educational and factual material on-site for searching, browsing, or onboarding.
In addition, it has customer service representatives available to answer questions by live chat, phone, or ticket/email. I tested out their live chat as a guest, to see what any anonymous visitor could get.
It took a couple of minutes, but I did get a response.
This is certainly not the type of question a customer service representative normally gets. I still got a response—even if it could have been worded better.
I had to clarify, but it was overall helpful. Note that the representative says the video on their help page is “almost” the same as their website builder.
In my message, however, I asked if the website builder in the video/that iPage uses is the same as FatCow’s—not similar, but same.
The FatCow representative then affirmed my answer, which leaves me wondering—is it the same builder, or similar?
Now, I understand I’m being pretty anal about a very trivial and unorthodox matter. The representative was overall helpful, understood the question, and tried their best to answer.
And before you ask: yes, the website builder they use is pretty much the same as iPage’s.
The larger question is about their knowledge base.
Why couldn’t they use a video of their own builder, and put it on a FatCow YouTube channel?
Are they so strained for resources that they must use other hosting platform’s screengrabs and pass it off as their own?
Now aside from that, the knowledge base is good. It’s simple and straight to the point.
I get this seems like minor stuff by itself, but when it all comes together, their on-site documentation looks a little shoddy; hasty, to say the least.
I can’t read every article they have on-site, and neither can you—so how much of it is actually helpful and specific to the FatCow platform?
Is any of it misleading, outdated, or copied from other platforms?
It’s tough to say, but I’m left a bit skeptical of FatCow’s customer support for these reasons.
FatCow’s a small company though, and maybe we can forgive them a bit.
Overall, their knowledge base seems comprehensive, and their representatives respond in a timely manner. That they offer 24/7 phone support at their size is an added bonus.
I just don’t think it’s the best customer support I’ve seen.
But if the security is good, you won’t really need to deal with customer support too much—so let’s take a look at that!
You don’t need me to tell you that security is essential. As FatCow is a smaller service, it’s easy to wonder if maybe they pinch pennies on security, or fail to be transparent.
This is not the case. FatCow is more transparent about its security than many other big names in the hosting world, which is quite comforting.
As a matter of fact, this page is dedicated to describing FatCow’s servers and their security. They only have two servers, and both in the Boston area—proof they really are a small contender—but those servers seem well-guarded.
Of particular interest, they offer a “pooled server environment.” This is a nontraditional structure that basically lets the first available machine serve a customer’s pages, giving faster loading times.
If one machine crashes, another unit will be clustered nearby to take over immediately.
So far, this makes FatCow’s security look pretty good.
Now, I still think they could have a little more infrastructure in place to protect from hackers and cyber attacks, but given that they only have two servers in the same area, it’s more understandable.
In my experience, the uptime has been pretty good. Aside from a few minutes during the off month here or there—nothing unusual even for the bigger platforms—I’ve had reliable uptime.
I wouldn’t say FatCow has the best security I’ve seen, but it’s very solid for its size. I am sure FatCow is reliable enough for anyone worrying about their uptime or information.
Do I Recommend FatCow?
In conclusion, FatCow presents a few drawbacks and quite a few benefits—all of which likely stems from its small size and/or its focus on simplification.
On one hand, pricing is simple in a way that makes buying a plan from FatCow painless. For some types of hosting, the simplicity means that you’ll get a really good deal.
On the other hand, for shared web hosting, it’s only a good deal for the first term. Afterward, simplicity might limit your ability to get a package properly tailored to your needs.
The features are good, it’s very easy to use service, and the security seems pretty solid even if it might be able to do with a bit more.
The customer support is alright—nothing major, but a few things here and there give me the sense their knowledge base could have outdated or shoddy articles.
Overall, I would recommend FatCow for small to medium businesses who want VPS, WordPress, or dedicated hosting solutions.
I would not recommend FatCow for anyone looking to make a cheap personal website—if you want to do shared hosting but with full features, either FatCow or a high-tiered shared hosting package with another company would be good.