FatCow is a hosting service which appears to be entirely focused on shared hosting, although it provides a wide range of services and support to complement it. Its selling point is simple: simple hosting facilities and simple to use services, eliminating the need for technical fiddling.
There are two plans available, The Original FatCow Plan and The Minimoo. The company offers a variety of professional services which can be added on (at extra cost).
FatCow has been operating for well over 10 years now. The company was founded in 1998 in Albuquerque in the USA but it has since been bought by Endurance International who also own a number of other web hosting companies, such as Bluehost. Endurance International provides online solutions for 2 million customers through 40 different brands, many of which they have acquired over the last few years.
FatCow Hosting Plans
Both of FatCow’s shared hosting plans run Linux on a server farm utilizing Apache server software. The company only offers shared hosting and gives no mention of VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting. It does offer partnership options for resellers and bonuses for referred customers who sign up.
The MiniMoo hosting plan offers a low-cost, single page, single email account solution to get started on the web, whilst the Original FatCow Plan gives you the chance to go much further with your site. Whilst this gives you unspecified ‘oodles’ of space and bandwidth, customers may be asked to reduce their usage should they exceed the normal level of resources, i.e. if they are using their accounts for storage and file sharing. The Original FatCow Plan plan entitles you to unlimited domains and unlimited email accounts.
FatCow has a Registrar Transfer tool to allow you to automatically transfer your existing domain name. The tech team will also manually transfer it for you if necessary.
FatCow does not publish their uptime or downtime statistics and it doesn’t give any uptime guarantees. However, the data centre combines round the clock systems management with onsite personnel and each server is clustered with another, which means if one goes down, another takes over. These servers are in turn are backed up to another set of servers to ensure that your data isn’t lost.
The data centre is located in Boston in the USA and provides half a petabyte of storage space across over 800 servers. The servers are protected by 2 firewalls and the data centre is monitored by security personnel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you want your site to be backed up automatically, you can purchase a backup package which gives you daily backups and a backup and restore tool. Otherwise, you’ll have to perform your own backups as and when you need to.
The FatCow website provides a number of support facilities including a knowledge base, user guide and tutorials. The company also offer 24/7 telephone, email and live chat support, all of which are free. However, if you are looking for help from other users, there is no obvious forum or message board. There doesn’t appear to be a FatCow wiki either, so it seems like they are keen for customers to go directly to their technical support department with any complaints or problems. It is not clear where the support services are based and whether they are outsourced or a part of the company.
There is a FatCow blog, but at the time of writing this article, the last entry was nearly six months old. The FatCow Facebook page is slightly more active, as is their Twitter account.
FatCow has included a completely unique ‘HeiferCratic Oath’ to deliver a positive support experience. If the oath is broken, the company will award an account credit worth one month of hosting. It’s a nice touch and fits in nicely with their light-hearted approach.
FatCow in the News
Despite being around for nearly 15 years, there’s a lack of news articles about FatCow, whether related to downtime or hacks. As such, we must conclude that FatCow provides a relatively solid service that’s been free of controversy so far.
FatCow Control Panel
FatCow provides its own custom control panel for site admin purposes. When you log in to the control panel, you’ll notice that it isn’t anywhere as near as slick as Cpanel. However, it does appear to be fairly simple to use and it is customisable to a point. FatCow also provides a handy video tutorial for their control panel, and it’s available to customers before they consider purchasing a hosting plan. If you’re not sure about a custom panel, take a look. On a side note, it is not clear whether you can run cron jobs using the control panel.
To attract customers, FatCow will give new users a $100 Google Adwords credit, $25 Yahoo!/Bing search marketing credit and a $50 Facebook advertising credit. You can also earn more credits through the referral and affiliate programmes.
The site tools include a neat drag-and-drop website builder, web analytics, FrontPage extensions, FTP access and Google custom search and webmaster tools. There are a number of applications available in a one-click installer including WordPress, Joomla, phpBB and GBook. Shared SSL, PayPal Shopping Cart are also integrated into the site, along with other online payment options.
For additional fees, FatCow offers a wide range of bolt-on services such as Facebook and web site design, premium support, SEO services and more.
FatCow Money Back Guarantee / Cancellation Policy
To cancel your subscription to FatCow, you need to provide 30 day written notice and will incur a $35 early cancellation charge. There is a money-back guarantee if you cancel within 30 days of signing up, although this doesn’t include money back for domain registration fees and additional services you’ve purchased. If you have received a free domain name, they will deduct the cost from your refund unless you do not want to keep it.
All in all, FatCow compares favourably with many other shared web hosting companies out there on cost. It has a competitive and simple price structure which novices are likely to appreciate. Its key focus seems to be getting small to medium sized businesses online with the right kind of support which makes this service ideal for internet newbies. The simple and effective site builder and support structure will appeal to those who have little experience of building a website, whilst the ability to install WordPress and other applications make it versatile enough to attract more experienced customers.
Importantly, additional services allow their customers to tailor their support and service needs based on their own terms. For example, many companies may have little experience of SEO; the ability purchase this service will be a useful option to help their site compete well in the search engines.
However, this bare bones approach, an exclusively shared service and no apparent possibility of upgrading to VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting – as well as potential restrictions on storage – may put established businesses off.