For those looking to get a website up and running fast, FatCow is a simple web service that should accommodate. Better yet, it has attractive introductory rates that definitely caught our attention. However, much of the value that FatCow seems to offer is ultimately smoke and mirrors. Between high renewal rates and charging for basic features that many other services detailed in our web hosting reviews library offer for free, FatCow quickly loses its luster.
On balance, we would recommend staying away and going with a more straightforward hosting service like Bluehost or another service featured in our best web hosting roundup. However, for those looking for a cheap, one-year hosting solution for a simple website, you could do worse.
The service does offer a 30-day money-back trial period to make sure it’s a good fit, too.
- Free domain name (one year)
- 24/7 customer support
- Easy to use control panel
- Point & click website builder
- VPS & dedicated hosting
- High renewal rates
- Charges for normally free features
- No cPanel
- Live chat crashes
- Email spam
With FatCow, you get a free domain name, a point-and-click website builder and access to Script Barn, a proprietary tool for one-click installing software like WordPress.
On the surface, the user experience is excellent and will likely appeal to those new to web development. The point-and-click site builder, for example, will give anyone the ability to create a nice-looking website with minimal technical knowledge.
However, while the builder makes life easy, the fact that FatCow charges for many features that should be free muddies the water significantly.
For example, unlimited pages and the ability to embed high-definition video costs an extra $132 a year. Cloud-based virus scanning will cost you an extra $20 a year and site backup will cost $27 for two years. FatCow doesn’t even give you access to a basic DNS editor — a way to add and edit DNS records — without adding on an additional cost to your hosting plan.
While some people will no doubt be roped into paying for these perks, there’s no need: each of them is free with WordPress if you go with a service like BlueHost or HostGator.
|Plan:||Per Month:||Per Year:||Yearly Introductory Rate:|
Shared hosting is the company’s cheapest and most basic plan. You’ll get to use some of the features we mentioned earlier like Script Barn and the FatCow site builder, plus have access to FTP and a basic file manager.
VPS hosting is next subscription tier up. VPS gets you a nice bump in speed and performance with it, plus optional root access for viewing and editing system files.
Dedicated hosting is FatCow’s premier subscription tier and is meant for businesses bringing in a lot of traffic. You get your own web server for hosting your website, which means more speed and bandwidth than VPS hosting.
Dedicated hosting plans are also fully managed by the FatCow technical support team. For a high-traffic website that can’t afford downtime, that’s a big advantage.
FatCow also offers special WordPress plans. If you’re planning on creating a WordPress site, FatCow installs the plugins you might need for you. Not only that, but you get a few handpicked themes you can activate on your site.
That said, FatCow’s WordPress plans offer the same server hardware as its shared hosting plans. Given that, there’s not much value in going with one of these plans, since you can setup WordPress for free on your own without much trouble.
While FatCow has good introductory rates, once your first year of service is up, renewal rates spike dramatically. At that point FatCow becomes pricier than much of the competition, including services run by FatCow’s parent company, EIG, like Arvixe (read our Arvixe review).
Worse, FatCow seems to go out of its way to hide these renewal rates. To find them, you need to play find the link, which FatCow has rendered in miniscule font size on its website. It seems like a deliberate attempt at deception. The result is that many subscribers may be caught unaware when they come up for renewal and discover a hefty charge on their credit card.
If you’re not happy with FatCow for any reason, the company does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, true to form, FatCow doesn’t refund everything. If you bought any additional features to go with your hosting package, you’re not getting your money back for them. You’ll also be charged $15 for a domain registration fee.
FatCow offers web hosting on three types of servers: shared, VPS and dedicated. This is the approach taken by most web hosts.
With a shared hosting plan, you’ll share a server with other customers. If someone’s site on that server is under a heavy load from increased traffic, fellow server tenants may suffer slowed performance. Shared hosting is best for small endeavors like creating a blog or an online portfolio for that reason.
If you need something that can handle a higher load, VPS hosting is ideal. With VPS hosting, you’re still sharing a server with others, but not quite so many. Virtualization also better manages the hardware of the physical server so that the websites on the server are running as efficiently as possible.
If you see that your web traffic is starting to slow your site down, the FatCow VPS plan also lets you to scale up to accommodate. Of course, this will cost extra.
At the bottom tier, you get one processor core, 1GB of RAM, 40GB of storage and 1TB of bandwidth. At the highest tier, you get four processor cores, 8GB of RAM, 120GB of storage and 4TB of bandwidth.
Dedicated hosting is also available in a range of scaled options. The smallest tier gives you two processor cores, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of storage and 5TB of bandwidth. Its most expensive tier gives you four processor cores, 16GB of RAM, 1000GB of storage and 15TB of bandwidth.
Dedicated hosting means your website gets a server all to itself. It’s designed for high traffic, profitable websites, and as such is considerably more expensive than shared or VPS hosting.
FatCow streamlines its signup process so that you can start creating your own website in just a few minutes. However, it’s worth noting that your site might not show up on the web immediately: it can take up to 72 hours for an ISP to update its servers with your new domain information.
FatCow actually uses its own custom-built control panel instead of the more common cPanel. While nicely integrated and easy to use, the FatCow’s panel isn’t nearly as feature-rich as cPanel.
One FatCow control panel feature that you’ll get plenty of use out of is Script Barn. It’s basically the company’s own version of cPanel’s Softaculous quick installer, helping you integrate software like WordPress or ecommerce solutions without needing any special technical knowledge.
If you’ve used a computer before, managing files in FatCow is also easy. The process works just like using a regular file manager like Windows File Explorer. It’s easy to move files around and create new ones.
FatCow keeps its servers in secure data centers designed for protection against virtual attacks and natural disasters. On top of that, the company regularly updates its software. Customer information is protected with SSL certificates, including payment information, too.
One area of concern, however, is FatCow’s commitment to user privacy. In particular, you can expect a lot of spam email.
You can stop some of these types of emails from being sent to you by unsubscribing, but you’re probably going to want to purchase domain privacy from FatCow. That, in theory, should keep third-party spam at bay.
FatCow offers 24/7 support, which is a huge plus. Support channels include phone, email, live chat and Twitter.
We tested out the company’s live chat option. Unfortunately, the chat software seems pretty buggy. We had to fill out the chat initialization form a couple times before it would load. Once it did, we received contact from a support representative almost immediately … But then they seemed to get disconnected, as we weren’t able to send any messages after first contact.
On the bright side, you should rarely need to get in touch with support since FatCow has a detailed knowledge base that can answer most basic questions.
FatCow has a few things going for it, including a year of hosting service with a free domain name for only $50. You do have to pay for that year upfront, but there aren’t many hosting services that can beat that introductory rate
The problem with FatCow is that it charges extra for features that should be free and post-introductory rates spike dramatically. That means prices can escalate, fast.
Our verdict: consider other options. Our guide on how to choose a web hosting provider in addition to our collection of web hosting reviews will help you find them. Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!