Fat Cow Hosting Review: Affordable Blogger Hosting with Room to Grow
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Bloggers on a budget gravitate towards shared hosting in the early days, and
Fat Cow is a great example of a hosting provider that does the basics well. It offers low pricing and ample resources that will give you a solid web presence, and its higher capacity plans provide room for growth.
Freebies include a domain name or transfer, credits for advertising networks, and an easy-to-use site builder tool. If you prefer WordPress or Joomla, Fat Cow’s one-click installers get your new site up and running in minutes.
What is Fat Cow?
Fat Cow is a well-established hosting brand, having entered the marked in 1998. It’s owned by the Endurance International Group, which is one of the world’s biggest hosting providers.
The Fat Cow brand is aimed at small businesses, bloggers, and start-ups that want simple, affordable web hosting services. Unlike some entry-level hosting companies, it offers multiple plans at different price tiers, so you can stay with the same host if you need more capacity later.
Fat Cow is based in the United States. It doesn’t provide much information about its data centers. But we know that most Endurance International companies use data centers that are also in the USA.
Fat Cow Specialties
Fat Cow offers straightforward, low-cost hosting. Its main focus is the “Original” shared hosting plan, and for a while, this was the only plan that it marketed in any noticeable way.
It does also offer specialized WordPress hosting, VPS, and dedicated, and there are site builders for regular websites and e-commerce stores. But its main focus is entry level, inexpensive hosting plans.
But its main focus is entry level, inexpensive hosting plans.
Fat Cow’s Original Shared Hosting Plan
Fat Cow takes an irreverent approach to hosting, with its “Udderly fantastic” hosting, and “legendairy” support.
But underneath the hood, its shared hosting plan offers lots of features that businesses need to get started: unlimited email addresses, a free website builder tool, and a one-click installer (“Script Barn”) which includes popular scripts like WordPress.
This plan, which
Fat Cow has named the Original Plan, is an inexpensive contract with “oodles” of disk space and bandwidth. The wording is vague, but the basic premise means that you can use as much disk space and bandwidth as you want for “normal” operation.
This wording is intentionally vague, but Fat Cow says that 99.5% of customers will fall into normal limits. The remaining 0.5% are encouraged to upgrade to a VPS.
Will your website be considered “normal”?
- If it’s a typical starter site, it probably will. Fat Cow’s shared hosting is designed for small WordPress websites that contain a mixture of text and images.
- If you have a huge amount of visitors, or you have large media files on your site, you may find that your usage falls outside its accepted range.
Remember: shared hosting isn’t the only cheap hosting option for businesses on Fat Cow. If you just want to run a WordPress blog, you sign up for one of its specific plans just for WordPress. These are similar to the basic shared plan, but they include pre-installed plugins and themes, and they cut some of the complexity of shared hosting.
Shared Hosting Features
When you dig into the fine print for Fat Cow’s shared hosting plan, you find most of the features that good Linux hosts offer.
- Full FTP access
- Free site builder tool
- ShopSite for fast e-commerce store building
- Unlimited domains and email accounts
- One-click installers (including WordPress, Joomla, and phpBB)
- Shared SSL
- Support for PHP 4 and PHP 5
Its separate WordPress plan also includes SSD storage, which can give your site’s speed a small boost.
Overall, there’s nothing good or bad that sets Fat Cow apart from other hosts in the cheap shared hosting market.
Advanced Fat Cow Hosting
Fat Cow also offers dedicated and VPS servers. If your business needs more resources than a shared plan can offer, this is an ideal route to upgrade:
- For its Linux VPS hosting, it uses a slider to provide a range of different capacity options and pricing levels. All VPS hosting plans include full management, cPanel, and root access. Fat Cow uses a cloud infrastructure to provision its VPS hosting plans, which gives users the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade according to their usage requirements.
- Dedicated servers also offer root access, as you would expect, and cPanel is included in the monthly fee. But there’s a key difference; management is an option on these plans and isn’t included by default. So if you aren’t confident in managing the technical aspects of hosting, you might need to pay a little more for assistance.
All dedicated servers and VPS plans come with CentOS as standard. There’s no option to switch your operating system, and no Windows plans are provided.
And while Fat Cow does acknowledge certain developer technologies, like Ruby on Rails and Python support, tools like SSH aren’t mentioned at all in the service descriptions.
Neither VPS or dedicated hosting appears to have full management, although support is included. Admittedly, the plan descriptions do not make the management aspect clear.
As an upgrade route from shared hosting, it could make sense to stay with Fat Cow purely for convenience. But if you’re thinking of using Fat Cow specifically for VPS or dedicated hosting, write down all of the features and technologies you need, and make a call to the sales team to verify that you’ll get what you’re expecting.
The control panel is the area where most of your site settings are located, so it’s important to look at this before signing up to a host. For most customers, the big question is whether a branded control panel is provided.
We know that Fat Cow offers cPanel with its VPS and dedicated servers, and there doesn’t appear to be an extra fee for it. So that’s good news for anyone that’s already used to cPanel.
But there’s no mention of cPanel on its shared hosting or WordPress plans.
In fact, some of its documentation references Plesk. But again, there’s no indication that Plesk is still offered.
Is this an issue? Yes and no. If you’re just starting out with web hosting, you probably won’t be too concerned about the control panel brand. But it could come into play later if you want to move to another host. Moving from one cPanel host to another is usually very simple, but when you’re using various mismatched custom control panels, it could get complicated.
Even if you can export your data from your CMS, you may find that your control panel settings or email mailboxes are lost. Sure, there are workarounds, but it’s much easier to bundle it all up in one file and FTP it to the new provider.
If a host offers cPanel or Plesk, it’s usually clearly stated. So the fact that Fat Cow doesn’t mention it means it probably isn’t included with shared hosting or WordPress plans.
Infrastructure and Uptime
Fat Cow is part of the Endurance International Group, which owns several data centers in the United States. But Fat Cow doesn’t state exactly which data center it uses, so there’s no way of knowing:
- What the data transfer speeds will be like
- What kind of physical security is in place
- Whether Fat Cow staff have access to servers
- How many servers there are
- What kind of backup power is in place
- How the data center is connected to the wider internet
- Whether you can move to another data center
- What the uptime record is.
If you just want to get your website online, none of these points are likely to concern you. But there is one situation where it should matter.
Often, hosts allow you to choose a data center close to your customers. When the provider doesn’t offer any information on server locations, that choice is taken away from you.
Likewise, Fat Cow doesn’t have a CDN, if its service pages are accurate. You can always use a third party CDN if you want to speed up content delivery, but that means taking the DIY route. Once again, not an issue if you are looking for a basic host, but something to keep in mind as you grow.
Fat Cow Uptime Guarantee
Fat Cow also doesn’t report any historical uptime figures, and it offers no uptime guarantees at all on any of its services. So if you experience issues with service interruption, you may have little recourse.
There’s no mention of uptime at all in its Terms of Service document, so it would be sensible to assume that no refunds are provided for poor performance.
There may be another way out if you’re unhappy. If you’re within the first 30 days of your Fat Cow contract, you can exit under the terms of its money-back guarantee. But this guarantee is only available to customers that pay using a credit card when they initially sign up for hosting.
Uptime guarantees vary quite a bit between hosts, and while many do offer credits or refunds, some of them are more useful than others. But for a small business, a hosting company with no guarantee — and no exit route — may be a risk to service continuity.
The risk of winding up with a slow, unreliable website is certainly something to bear in mind, particularly if you’re tempted to sign up for a full year.
Security and Backups
Fat Cow offers little regarding security information, and as we’ve already noted, we don’t know what kind of security is in use in its data centers either. SiteLock is available for an additional fee and includes malware scanning, blacklist notification, and the SiteLock badge for your website.
On its shared hosting plan, daily backups are mentioned in the feature list. But dig into the detail, and you won’t find any fine print about how the backups work. Given that Fat Cow offers two paid backup services, it’s highly likely (although unconfirmed) that the “free” backups are simply for the host’s internal use unless you want to manually create your own backups another way.
So if you want backups that you can freely access yourself, you’ll need to pay Fat Cow another monthly premium, on top of your hosting fee:
- Its inexpensive basic backup service offers one restore point per day on a single website. This is taken automatically, so you can’t create the restore point before you start work on your site (for example).
- If you work on multiple sites (or you’re actively developing your content), the Pro plan is worth the extra cash. It includes unlimited sites, and up to 5 restore points a day, plus the ability to create a backup on demand. This is handy if you want full control over how and when a backup is created.
If you don’t think that its backup service will work for your website, you could alternatively install a backup plugin for your CMS, if one is available. However, this won’t back up your email mailboxes or other files.
Fat Cow’s technical support team is available 24/7 to answer any questions you have. There’s a dedicated phone line for support inquiries and a separate line for billing questions.
Technical support numbers are available for the following countries or continents:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- Europe — this number is the same as the United Kingdom.
It’s good to see some basic localization, but Fat Cow doesn’t advertise support in any language other than English.
If you prefer to correspond with the technical support team via email, you can open a ticket on the Fat Cow website. There’s an email form, but this is designed for pre-sales queries. Live chat is available when support operatives are online.
For self-help, there are a couple of options:
- Fat Cow has a knowledge base, but its topics are too basic for any complex account use. However, if you have a quick question about setting something up, the knowledge base is helpful and well-written.
- There’s also a User Guide, which is a web-based guide to using your account. Again, this is basic stuff, but should help you to get your website up and running.
So for entry-level questions, you’ll be pretty well catered for if you’re a hosting newbie. If you plan to do anything complex with your hosting account, you may find that the level of documentation provided does not get you far enough.
You can obviously research your problem on the wider internet, but in some cases, you may have to rely on personal support from the hosting company.
Weighing The Options
Fat Cow is one of the few hosting companies that makes boring features sound fun. Its “udderly fantastic” hosting is described in a way that’s guaranteed to raise a smile. Their plans are clearly explained, which will make it an attractive choice for newbies.
On the surface, Fat Cow’s plans are good value. There’s lots of competition in the shared hosting sector, and Fat Cow is one of the hosts that clearly explains what’s included. Unless you exceed your “unlimited” allowances, you shouldn’t experience any major issues.
But there are a couple of issues with Fat Cow:
- There’s that nagging lack of uptime guarantee, so if your service underperforms, you might be trapped in a long contract. That’s not to say that hosting companies’ uptime guarantees are always perfect anyway. But having one is usually better than not.
- The backups that are advertised alongside the shared hosting plan don’t appear to be mentioned anywhere else. This strongly suggests that “real” backups must be paid for. Okay, a few bucks a month won’t break your business, but you may prefer to have the host take care of it for you.
Should You Choose Fat Cow Hosting?
It could be risky to depend on Fat Cow with a truly business-critical website, or a growing development project that’s likely to demand more resources than average.
That said, not every business needs bulletproof uptime. Some businesses will be content setting up their site and leaving it be. So issues of guarantees and backups are not insurmountable problems.
If you’re in the market for the cheapest serviceable hosting plan, Fat Cow has more than enough to get you up and running. For example, a small WordPress website to compliment a bricks and mortar store is perfectly suited to shared hosting in this category.
Image Source: Pixabay.com | ChrisophMeinersmann