What is FatCow?
FatCow is an Endurance International Brand providing inexpensive web hosting services. The unique “Fat Cow” theme hides a full-fledged web hosting service for personal and business websites alike.
When I started my first website, my choice of web host was FatCow. That was back in 2009. I was looking for a feature packed hosting service that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. In the meantine I have moved to GreenGeeks for better performance. I liked the silly Fat Cow thing too, and the fact that they are a green hosting company, active in social media.
That was a silly decision! I have just listed all the wrong reasons you should base your choice on, even if they are running a deal like this! I’ll tell you what matters: uptime, speed, control panel features, support and low price. If you have all this at a hosting company, stick with them. In this review I’ll go through each in detail.
BBB Accredited Business
It’s always a good thing to check BBB before signing up for a service. FatCow is listed under the name of its parent company EIG.
They have an A+ rating, the best a company can reach on the Better Business Bureau.
When it comes to super cheap (but quite reliable) web hosting providers, it’s tough to compete with the sound value that this company brings to the table. While it might have a bit of a silly name to some, this incredibly cheap and effective web hosting service is taken very seriously, as I soon found out after giving it a trial run. More about features here.
Not only is it feature packed and very robust, but I was also very impressed with the responsiveness and uptime that it was able to shoehorn in – even at a monthly rate that would make other web hosting companies pass out.
Uptime Guarantee Kept
FatCow does not offer any uptime guarantee, so they don’t publish such statistics. That doesn’t mean one cannot keep uptime records. I have done so, and here are the results.
Fatcow is one of the many web hosting companies that can boast of almost 100% uptime (we measured 99.9% over a 30 day period). While there is no perfect solution for web hosting (even the sites of giants like Amazon go down from time to time), especially when so many variables are introduced, you can expect high uptime and responsiveness.
My sites load quickly, fast enough for me to see that there must be some serious thought put into optimizing server speeds, and you should be able to serve all of your visitors and clients with a pretty consistent service across the board.
Here is a chart displaying the server response time in milliseconds:
They have a clustered architecture. That means that if one server goes down, another takes its place. This minimizes any downtime.
The data center is located in Boston, USA, giving place to 800 servers. The facility is under constant security surveillance. Besided physical protection, there are two firewalls keeping the servers safe.
Features – The Usual Stuff
You get the pretty mainstream and the baseline amount of unlimited services – unlimited space, bandwidth, add-on users, email accounts, etc – but are also able to do that with a very, very friendly price tag.
- Bonus Adwords Voucher! Get visitors to your site immediately by using the $100 Adwords voucher.
- Facebook Advertising Credit – Tap into social traffic. You can start with $50 Facebook ad credit.
- Free Yellowpages Listing: Get your site listed on YP.com, a directory for people looking for local services.
- WordPress Blogging: Use the best blogging platform to publish your website.
This part is for you if you are on a budget.For those of you that are looking for a solid solution (all accounts can run MySQL databases, powerful and resource hungry web apps, have the capability for numerous add-ons and reporting software, etc.) at a consumer friendly price, then look absolutely no further than Fatcow.com. The regular prices are low, but you can also take advantage of periodic discounts.
FatCow runs on Linux servers powered by Apache. Apache is the standard server software on the market, although not the fastest. A couple faster engines exist, but they are not widespread.
Virtual Private Servers
If you want increased control, semi-private resources and cloud-based flexibility, you should definitely read up on Fatcow’s VPS solutions.
You get root access if you need it to do the power user kind of stuff on the server. You also have cPanel with these packages instead of vDeck in the shared package.
VPS has its own advantages regardless of hosting providers. They are usually instantly deployable and can grow with your website’s needs.
The price tag on this is between $19.99 to $79.99, depending on the plan you choose.
Control Panel Menus
Here is what the Control Panel looks like, at least the main menu part of it.
They have gathered all the links into five categories.
- Website: this one includes all the features that enable you to create, edit and maintain your website. Things like FTP, File Manager, SimpleScripts all can be found here.
- Email: here you can access your mails, change settings and even set up some mailing lists and autoresponders.
- Domain: take care of your existing domain, register new ones, or transfer in old ones.
- Marketing Services: Ad credits, toll-free numbers, email marketing tools are presented here.
- Additional Tools: Accept credit cards, see some server stats, and can also edit your .htaccess files.
The FatCow Domain Central
The Domain Central has four submenus. The most important ones are the first two. The latter three are only important if you have your domain with FatCow (I advise to go with Namecheap or some other registrar instead).
In the Pointer tab you can tell which directory on the server should your domain point to. E.g. /mynewsite.com/. It’s quick and easy to handle!
Simple File Manager
It’s not always possible to connect to your website via FTP, e.g. when you are working on a computer that doesn’t have a FTP client installed (like FileZilla). In cases like this can the built-in file manager come very handy. Here is how it looks:
It’s nothing fancy, but it does the job. You can rename, delete, upload and refresh files and folders, or change permissions.
If I should compare the control panel to cPanel, I would prefer cPanel, but that’s probably because that’s what I’m used to.
FatCow Review > Blend Between Budget and Power
This is where you get the bang for your buck, and since just about every other host in the world has offered these same solutions and features, why wouldn’t you go with the provider that was cheaper? This is a perfect blend between budget and power, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Htaccess is a powerful tool for security and some advanced functionality. You can easily add and remove some common htaccess features.
- Hotlink Protection: Prevent other websites from loading your files other than your own, saving you bandwidth.
- Password Protection: Protect directories with username and password.
- Block IP Addresses: Single IP or an IP range, you can block it all from visiting your website.
- MIME Types: Add or edit system MIME types.
- Custom Error Message: Change the default server message to something more useful when a page is not found, or anything you like!
- Default Pages: Change the filename of the webpage home to whatever you like.
- URL Redirect: Redirect directories or pages to any URL you choose.
- Open Directory Browsing: If you would like to enable browsing the content of your directories, this tool can do that. (It doesn’t work that way due to security considerations.)
- Direct Editor: If you are a coder, you can edit the htaccess files directly.
Adding FTP Accounts
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and from that you can guess that it’s for uploading and downloading files from the server. Compared to the online file manager, it’s more sophisticated and you can better schedule and monitor up and downloading.
Adding new FTP accounts is the simplest it can be. You add a username, password and default directory for the account. That’s it!
MySQL for Database Driven Websites
If you use SimpleScripts installer to set up your WordPress blog or the many open source platforms in there, you will virtually never have to mess with MySQL. But if you are a power user, or want to set up something that’s not available inside SimpleScripts and don’t have an auto installer, you will have to deal with MySQL.
You have an overview page for all your databases. You can select from those and go to the MySQL interface. It’s not that intuitive and goes beyond the scope of this review, but you should know that all the shared hosting companies offer MySQL for database management. It’s not a FatCow issue.
Website Creation Tools
Here is an overview of the website creation tools at FatCow. These are the easy drag & drop editors that are freely available from the control panel, with paid upgrades when you need more features. WordPress is also in this section.
Let me quickly go over them and see which is useful and which is to be left alone.
I’ve Never Used Shopsite – Here’s Why!
Obviously this is only for people who want to set up an eCommerce website. First of all, the features of Shopsite are very limited. You can upgrade for a fee, but why would you when there are free alternatives? Even on FatCow’s 1-Click Install (source).
Prestashop, Magento, Oscommerce, Opencart are all wonderful open-source software with all the advanced features one would need. So leave Shopsite alone and head over to the eCommerce section of Simplescripts/Mojomarket and choose a better solution.
SiteDelux Website Builder – Don’t use it – ever!
This is among the quickest ways to create a website without technical knowledge (although it’s not the best solution, later on why). There are six recommended templates ready to choose from. These are:
- Accountant: Introduce your firm and services, keep in touch with clients.
- Restaurant: Upload your menu, accept reservations online, offer coupons and gift certificates.
- Real Estate: Showcase your properties with pictures and descriptions.
- Contractor: Introduce yourself and your services, get new clients.
- Merchant: Sell online and promote your business.
There are numerous others in different categories, ranging from sites for teens to business website templates.
Let’s be honest here, the code you get with the website is outdated, don’t expect search engine traffic with these. You are better off with a free WordPress theme.
A Better Site Builder: CM4ALL
CM4ALL is a third-party service integrated into the control panel. It has a free and a paid version. Free is fine for a small and simple website. By all means use this instead of Sitedelux. Why?
- Modern code
- Beautiful responsive design (looks good on every device)
- Drag & Drop Content elements and widgets
- Easy Facebook Page
- Simple E-Commerce Features
- Widgets with open API
- Scalable – from single server to clusters
You can also try the Weebly Drag & Drop Site Builder. It has a similar set of features. You can compare them and decide which one you like better.
Gomobi – A Paid Option for Mobile Friendly Websites
goMobi is a paid mobile website creator. It’s definitely an option if you are not familiar with WordPress. But if you are, most of the free WordPress themes are already responsive (mobile friendly).
You don’t get that for free, FatCow makes routine backups daily, but you have to pay for it. You can also make your own backups in case you don’t want to pay.
WordPress Experience You Have Been Waiting For
In early 2014 a couple new plans were introduced. Before that, they only had the original plan with everything unlimited (and average performance). Now they have added a special plan designed for hosting WordPress blogs.
WordPress is quite heavy on the SQL servers so if you run it on a regular hosting account you may not get the best performance.
The WP starter plan is not much addition in terms of features or performance to the original FatCow plan. It’s just a couple of extras they throw in with every WP installations you make.
Now this is where you get the goodies. You get better speeds and additional security. If you go with WordPress, this is the plan to go with. You get SSD, CDN, caching and a limited number of sites on the servers. I would say this is the premium plan for the more serious webmasters.
1-Click setup is easily reachable from the main menu of the control panel. You don’t even have to give any info for setup. Unless you want to! Advanced options let you specify the site title, username and password.
The Real Gem – Customer Service
This is where Fatcow has really begun to flex its muscles and separate itself from everyone else in the (admittedly) crowded web hosting industry.
Help With the Basics
Understanding that most of their users would be business people just looking to improve their bottom lines with an effective web platform, they designed the customer service and tech team to help anyone at any time – even those who struggle wrapping their heads around all of this new technology.
Response time was super fast, and I have problems that I purposefully did (just to get a test for this review) solved in a matter of minutes. These guys are absolute pros – always friendly and more than willing to assist in any way, I’ve been just blown away by customer service, support, and IT teams – top rate professionals all.
When you’re looking for a web hosting service on a budget, Fatcow needs to come in near the top.
I will be honest with you, I am an affiliate of FatCow. Why wouldn’t I when I am using them actively for years? That’s good for you too. I have negotiated a pretty huge discount for my visitors. It’s definitely worth checking out if you are about to sign up and save a couple bucks.