We take a look at FatCow web hosting, a no-nonsense hosting company we believe is most suitable for beginners or simply people who don't want a long-term investment. However, more experienced users will get annoyed at its slow speeds; read our full FatCow review for the details.
FatCow is yet another web host from Endurance International Group, which is a web hosting conglomerate that also oversees Bluehost and HostGator. Like its siblings, FatCow isn’t a bad offering, but it’s not quite best web hosting material, either. In this FatCow review, we’ll explain why.
Though not terrible, FatCow doesn’t have the chops to stand up to our top-rated providers. The speed is mediocre, the price is high and the features are lacking. That said, it has a lot of integrations with other platforms that may make it appealing to beginners.
We’re going to talk about our experience after launching a WordPress website with FatCow’s shared hosting plan. Along the way, we’ll talk about what we liked and disliked in features, pricing, security, privacy and more before giving our verdict.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Easy to use website builder
- Integration with Weebly
- Free ad credits
- Free Constant Contact
- Multiple hosting types
- Disjointed website
- Confusing checkout
- Lacks security features
- Worrying privacy
Alternatives for FatCow
$3.75 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
- : Paid
$3.95 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
$2.95 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
$7 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
$199 / month(All Plans) 1-day money-back guarantee
FatCow is light on features, despite the flashy marketing credits and building tools at the ready. The features feel more like advertisements for other EIG products, and that comes at the cost of essential features that’d make packages feel more well-rounded.
Starting with what you get, though, FatCow offers $100 for Google Ads and Bing, which is common for inexpensive hosts. Those credits get you little, but if you’re looking to start advertising through search engines, FatCow gives you a boost.
The building tools are more impressive. You’re restricted to WordPress, FatCow’s website builder or Weebly unless you want to install a platform manually, but the addition of Weebly is a big deal. It’s one of the best website builders we’ve reviewed, fit with with a long list of features and multiple integrations (read our Weebly review).
Finally, you get Constant Contact, which is an email marketing tool that, unsurprisingly, is owned by EIG.
There are so many essential features missing, though. Daily backups, for example, aren’t included. Though FatCow’s feature list says that a daily backup of the server is kept, you have to purchase a backup and restore add-on to access it.
The same goes for SSL/TLS certificates. FatCow claims it includes a free, shared SSL/TLS certificate with your plan, but clicking the tab in the control panel for certificates sends you to a product page.
Unfortunately, that’s a theme with FatCow. There are remnants of a prior version of the host that haven’t been overwritten by the modern updates. It feels disjointed and difficult to navigate, which is especially important during checkout. Key features are missing, despite the fact that FatCow promises them.
FatCow Features Overview
|Web Application Firewall|
|Live Chat Support|
- Price for longest term
- Price for longest term
- Price for longest term
- Price for longest term
FatCow looks inexpensive, but if cheap web hosting is what you’re after, it won’t deliver. The initial price is low, and FatCow is generous in giving you multiple durations to choose from, but the renewal rate, which is only clarified in the dark corners of the website, is much higher than the competition’s.
Shared hosting, or FatCow hosting as it’s called, starts at $5 per month. Thankfully, that carries over no matter which duration you choose. It’s offered monthly, annually, biennially and triennially, with only a slight discount if you jump to the multi-year plan. The devil’s in the details, though, and that’s especially true here.
Monthly plans renew at close to $15, so though FatCow looks even cheaper than Hostinger (read our Hostinger review), renewal is harsher on your wallet. FatCow is only looking to sell the initial term, and it’s easy to glance over the higher than average renewal rate when you’re checking out.
WordPress plans are weird. Instead of the round numbers used when pricing the other plans, FatCow uses a different pricing scheme and checkout page. It’s likely that came from EIG because other brands in the network, such as Bluehost, have plans around the same price (read our Bluehost review).
VPS and dedicated plans are, frankly, bad. The prices are low enough, but the specs don’t impress, especially with no unmanaged options to save a few bones. We recommend A2 Hosting if you’re looking for VPS or dedicated plans (read our A2 Hosting review).
Though FatCow appears inexpensive, it’s much pricier than the rest of the market. $15 a month for a shared plan is almost unheard of, despite the generous discount you’re given on the initial term. The money-back guarantee doesn’t impress, either, with providers like InMotion Hosting offering triple the 30-day duration FatCow gives you (read our InMotion Hosting review).
Ease of Use
FatCow shares a lot with Arvixe when it comes to ease of use, and if you’ve read our Arvixe review, you know that’s not a good thing. The website is dated, plan navigation is difficult and checkout is surprisingly complex. Though the control panel is excellent, everything else about FatCow is a struggle.
Once you choose a plan, you’ll be asked to register a domain. It’s important to note that you’ll be asked to register the domain without the ability to add your own. Because of that, we had to contact support to add our test domain to the account after checking out.
It takes next to forever to search for available domains, too. FatCow’s website is sluggish, which isn’t a good sign when you’re purchasing web hosting.
After checkout, you’ll receive an email with your randomly generated username and a link to set your password. While we prefer the inclusive setup of Kinsta (read our Kinsta review), FatCow’s email system isn’t too bad.
The control panel is the same as iPage’s, which isn’t surprising considering they’re both EIG brands (read our iPage review). Also like iPage, FatCow will ask how you’re building your website when you first land in the control panel. It’s a nice gesture, especially for newbies who may not know all their options.
Instead of a traditional cPanel, FatCow is stripped back (read our best web hosting with cPanel guide). Though navigation is simple, it feels like FatCow puts up more guardrails than it needs to. Finding essential areas, such as domain management, is a chore, and the limited number of apps in cPanel may force you to use a platform you don’t want to.
Plus, there’s no Softaculous app installer. It’s used to install WordPress, Joomla and more with most web hosts, but FatCow handles its installs through MOJO Marketplace, which is another EIG brand. While reviewing Arvixe, which uses the same system, we had problems installing WordPress through MOJO Marketplace and they persisted here.
The control panel isn’t bad, but it doesn’t offer the flexibility of a full cPanel implementation or a proprietary design such as Kinsta’s or DreamHost’s. Outside of that, the checkout process is sluggish and confusing, which isn’t made better by the dated website design.
FatCow offers three types of hosting: shared, VPS and dedicated. There are WordPress plans offered on the website, but they’re simply shared plans with WordPress preinstalled, as well as a few themes and plugins.
For most users, shared plans make sense. Shared hosting is where there are multiple websites hosted on the same server. The websites share the resources of the server. Though a great way to get your website started, shared hosting often has less consistent uptime and speed because other websites on the server are reaching for the same pool of resources.
The WordPress plans use the shared architecture, but they come with a few WordPress-specific features. You’ll get WordPress preinstalled at your domain, along with a list of curated themes. FatCow also includes essential WordPress plugins, such as W3 Total Cache and Jetpack, which you can learn about in our beginner’s guide to using WordPress.
None of that’s bad, but our best web hosting for WordPress guide is a better starting point if you’re looking to use that platform.
VPS stands for virtual private server, which means your website is on a shared server but it gets its own set of resources. There’s a virtual server on the physical server, essentially giving you some percentage of the computing power. FatCow’s VPS plans aren’t bad, but the specs of the server aren’t clarified.
Dedicated plans give a glimpse of what the specs might be, though. Unlike shared hosting, dedicated hosting gives you a server to yourself. That server can be used for one or many websites, but the resources it has are dedicated to you.
FatCow’s most expensive dedicated package features the Intel Xeon E3-1230V2, which, though a decent performer, isn’t the best processor for servers. Even so, the dedicated plans are mostly in line with what other web hosts offer.
Missing out of the lineup, though, is cloud hosting. That type of hosting still gives you a server, but the server calls upon the resources of other servers in the network, effectively giving you limitless resources. If that’s what you’re looking for, read our Pagely review.
Speed & Uptime
We tested FatCow’s speed using Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact. The tests were run on a blank installation of WordPress on FatCow’s shared plan. That way, we can gauge the performance of the most inexpensive package and compare that to our other results.
Unfortunately, FatCow didn’t perform well. Pingdom Speed Test gave it 84 out of 100, which is mediocre for a blank copy of WordPress. Digging into the details, which you can see in the chart below, we noted a much higher than average wait time, which measures how long it takes for the server to start sending data to the browser.
Given those results, it’s safe to say that FatCow is responsible for the speed hit. That’s likely because caching isn’t included with your plan on the server side or the client side. If it was, it could increase your speed, but further optimizations from FatCow are needed to get the speed up to par.
Load Impact had better performance than expected, though. It sent 50 virtual users to our test website over five minutes, simulating how the server would react under load. Unlike many cheap shared hosts, FatCow held up, returning no HTTP errors during our testing.
That suggests that servers aren’t stuffed to the brim. HTTP errors usually signify a lack of computing resources, indicating there are too many users on the server. Though FatCow didn’t return any, it still had some inconsistency as the user load increased. Even so, it was a better performer in our Load Impact test than GreenGeeks (read our GreenGeeks review).
We didn’t experience downtime during our testing, but that doesn’t mean your website will always be live. FatCow doesn’t have an uptime guarantee, so if your website goes down, you’re out of luck. Given the lackluster speed, we’re not holding our breath for excellent uptime with FatCow.
Security is a weak point for FatCow, even compared to the lackluster performance in some of the above sections. It’s lacking essential security features on all plans, so much so that it seems security wasn’t accounted for when putting the service together.
An SSL/TLS certificate is essential for any website, and, unfortunately, FatCow doesn’t include one. Despite claiming to include a shared certificate on the features page, it’s not included or, at least, it doesn’t seem to be. When trying to enable the certificate, we were redirected to a product page.
The same goes for daily backups. FatCow, once again, says on its product page that daily backups are included, but when going through the website, we were met with another screen asking us to buy in.
Plus, there’s no malware scanning or removal. Being an EIG brand, FatCow gives you quick access to SiteLock, which is basically an antivirus for your website. Even its basic scanning plan isn’t included with your hosting, though. That’s strange, especially when other EIG hosts include it for free.
FatCow is part of EIG, and if you’ve read our reviews of other EIG brands, you know that privacy isn’t a strong point for them (read our HostGator review for an example). Your personal information is used as a commodity, being traded and sold to multiple privacy-unfriendly brands.
We should discuss domain privacy first, though. When your register a domain, you must put your personal information on record. A WHOIS record, as they’re called, contains information such as your name, phone number and address and is publicly available online.
Domain privacy replaces that record with information about the registrar. Some web hosts are including it for free, such as DreamHost (read our DreamHost review), and that’s a direction we’d like to see taken by other providers. FatCow, unfortunately, charges for domain privacy.
That likely came from EIG. Other EIG brands, such as Arvixe, have included free domain privacy before being gobbled up by the conglomerate.
The list includes Google AdWords, Facebook, Salesforce, Verizon, WPBeginner and Yahoo. Though some entries, such as PayPal and Google Maps API, make sense for building a website, the partners listed above don’t. The only thing we can assume is that your personal data is being sold or shared for marketing purposes.
Plus, your information can be shared internally. EIG is a massive company, with multiple domain registrars, web hosts and peripheral services caught in the web. Because of that, your personal information from FatCow is likely going to be shared with MOJO Marketplace, SiteLock and more.
Privacy isn’t a concern for FatCow or EIG, and though most web hosts bury what’s collected about you, EIG’s practices are particularly offensive. We can’t conjure any reasonable explanation for its list of partners, and based on our own experience, we can confirm a significant bump in EIG ads after reviewing one of its services.
Support is decent, as it is with all other EIG brands. Like its siblings, FatCow has around-the-clock live chat, which we had the pleasure of testing while trying to get our website set up. It’s functional but distant. Unlike SiteGround, which puts a name to a face, you’re simply staring at a block of text with FatCow (read our SiteGround review).
There’s phone support, too, but, oddly, no email. That’s in contradiction to the, admittedly cheesy, heifercratic oath FatCow has, which says it’ll respond over live chat, email and phone around the clock. Once again, that seems to be a remnant of FatCow’s previous form.
As for self-help, there’s a knowledgebase. Well, actually, there are two knowledgebases. During our testing, we came upon different versions of the same knowledgebase depending on how we accessed it. If you come upon the newer looking one, it’ll simply redirect you to the old one.
Why FatCow has it set like that is beyond us. Clicking a category in the new knowledgebase doesn’t redirect you to that category in the old one. It just redirects you to the category selection screen.
Navigating isn’t the best, with FatCow adopting a familiar left-side list of topics and long menu of articles. The articles are brief, but still filled with enough detail to be helpful. Some of the deeper topics have screenshots, too, which is good to see.
FatCow isn’t bad necessarily, but the high price tag isn’t justified in the slightest. It’s slow, difficult to navigate and expensive, meaning you can get a lot more for your money. It has strengths when it comes to integrations, though, allowing you to get decent hosting while building on a platform such as Weebly.
That said, simply jumping for a website builder such as Wix may be better if you fit in that camp (read our Wix review). If you’re looking for more flexibility in your hosting, read our other web hosting reviews.
What do you think of FatCow? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.