FatCow Hosting Review

We bought it, used it, and it's getting slower & slower...

Brad Smith  —  · Read user reviews

I’ve been a paying customer for FatCow for the last 37 months. During that time, I’ve monitored their performance – avg. load time and uptime.

This review relies strongly on data, such as uptime, load time (speed) and customer support experience.

 

What is FatCow?

FatCow, despite the whimsical name, also happens to be one of the oldest in the business.

It was originally founded way back in 1998 by Jackie Fewell, before being acquired in 2004 by the infamous EIG (who also owns HostGator, Bluehost and many others.)

Association with EIG tends to be a kiss of death.

Has FatCow retained their grass-roots approach? (Get it?!)

Or have they fared similarly to other EIG properties, slowly letting performance slide off a metaphorical cliff?

FatCow review: Testing out FatCow

We purchased The FatCow Plan shared hosting plan in June 2015 to do our own analysis and find out for ourselves.

We set up a WordPress website, and have been conducting performance reviews of their attributes including uptime & speed (you can even click “History” to dive into our analysis).

Read on to discover the good, bad, and ugly we found during our analysis.

 

Pros of using FatCow Hosting

With a name like FatCow, we didn’t quite know what to expect.

The good news first? They’ve performed admirably in a number of important categories during our review process. Here’s a quick summary of the highlights.

 

1. Good (If Inconsistent) Support

Our personal experience with FatCow’s support team went smoothly. Their support staff reached us within two minutes, with quick and accurate responses.

Unfortunately, other customers haven’t always experienced the same attention to detail. Our background check revealed a very inconsistent experience that didn’t always line up with our own.

FatCow Support

Quick chat with FatCow customer support agent

In addition to live chat support, FatCow also offers a pretty extensive user knowledgebase.

There, users can find answers to their questions about their account, domains, email, files, partnership programs, policies, security, and more.

You can also search for a keyword or phrase that relates to your question rather than filtering through preset categories.

fatcow knowledge base

This is an awesome customer service feature for users who prefer self-help over live chat.

The knowledge base also serves as a backup method of support if live chat is ever offline.

2. Upfront, Honest Pricing

Unlike some other nefarious hosting companies, FatCow’s pricing structure was like a breath of fresh air.

Many web hosts (including many of the EIG brands themselves) use misleading pricing to draw you in, only to find out that you need to commit to paying some long-term, three-year deal upfront in order to secure that pricing.

Another common trick is to get you when it’s time for renewal, upping the price drastically because the chances of you leaving are slim to none.

Thankfully, FatCow’s low advertised website pricing is the real deal. There’s no tricks, gimmicks, or hoops you have to jump through in order to take advantage of it.

3. Free Website Transfers and Domain Names

Assuming you have an existing website hosted somewhere else, FatCow will help you transfer it free of charge.

Don’t fret if you’re just starting out, because they’ll also throw in a free domain name for new account signups.

4. 30-Day Money Back Guarantee

FatCow offers a standard 30-day money back guarantee on all hosting plans.

However please note that they can only refund orders made through Credit Card.

5. Eco-Friendly Web Host

Supposedly, their offices and data centers are completely powered by wind energy. Not quite as green as GreenGeeks, but still commendable.

However, we personally haven’t visited. And don’t plan on it anytime soon either. So while we don’t want to stir up some conspiracy theory, you might want to take that claim at face value.

They do appear to be an EPA Green Power Partner, though, so their claims seem pretty legitimate.

The company purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). The RECs that they purchase are used to generate wind energy to negate their regular energy usage in the office.

In fact, they purchase twice the amount that they use. FatCow claims to prevent the release of 999 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

According to the EPA, this is equivalent to:

  • Taking 214 passenger vehicles off of the road for one year
  • Driving 2,448,529 miles
  • 248 tons of waste recycled rather than being thrown into a landfill
  • 49.8 garbage trucks worth of recycled waste rather than landfilled waste

…and the list goes on.

hostpapa green

If you’re concerned about shrinking your carbon footprint and you’re looking for a socially conscious business to host your website with, FatCow is a serious contender.

 6. Free Web Icons

Need some web icons to boost the overall design of your site? FatCow has you covered.

The company offers 3,926 professionally-designed “farm-fresh web icons.” The best part? They’re all completely free!

fatcow web icons

But there’s a bit of a catch if you look at the Terms of Use for these web icons.

For example, if you do include these web icons on your site, you’ll have to make sure that you link to the following URL in your credits: http://www.fatcow.com/free-icons.

Although they’re free to use, FatCow requires that you credit them for creating the icons.

 

Cons of using FatCow Hosting

FatCow’s honest pricing is an added bonus, increasing credibility with their what you see is what you get approach.

Unfortunately, it all ain’t sunshine and roses.

There are a few negative aspects we should review before you make a final decision on anything. Here are some of the biggest concerns.

 

1. Average 99.77% Uptime (Last 8 Months)

In our experience, many of the EIG brands fail to deliver good uptime consistently.

(You know, ’cause keeping a website live isn’t important or anything.)

FatCow falls right into this trend with .17 worse than the industry average of 99.94%. TERRIBLE!

It’s also important to note that they’ve been showing consistently mixed results lately. Here are the details.

2018:

  • January average uptime: 99.95%
  • February average uptime: 100%
  • March average uptime: 99.95%
  • April average uptime: 99.90%
  • May average uptime: 99.94%
  • June average uptime: 98.57%
  • July average uptime: 99.99%
  • August(21’st) average uptime: 99.90%

FatCow last 8 month stats

FatCow: Page Load Speed and Uptime (Last 12 months, full data can be found here.)

2. FatCow is Slow. Obviously.

If speed was a critical element of your business, you would probably go to extra lengths to carefully select a word that doesn’t conjure up the negative connotation of a big, dumb, slow-moving (yet tasty) animal.

FatCow, unfortunately for all of us certainly lives up to their name. (I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised.)

Over the last eight months, FatCow had average page loading times of 1,262ms (34.57% slower than the industry average of 890ms). That’s among the slowest page loading times we’ve seen across almost thirty-three web host reviews. The news keeps getting worse though, as they’ve posted consistently below average page loading times since we initially signed up with them about a year ago.

Even navigating their website is problematic, with many of their web pages taking foreeevvveerrrr (say that in this voice) to load.

Considering that site speed has a large bearing on both search rankings and conversions, slow page loading times are a big drawback for any commercial website.

Case-in-point: HALF of your traffic is bouncing if pages don’t load within only two seconds.

Last 8 month average load time

2018:

  • January average speed: 1,315ms
  • February average speed: 1,072ms
  • March average speed: 1,239ms
  • April average speed: 1,436ms
  • May average speed: 1,268ms
  • June average speed: 1,226ms
  • July average speed: 1,218ms
  • August(21’st) average speed: 1,322ms

2. Cancellation Can Cost You

FatCow does offer a free, 30-day money back guarantee. So no problems there.

However, if you want to cancel after that period closes, there’s a minimum $35 early cancellation fee. They also require a 30-day notice to cancel too.

3. Backups Aren’t Free

Minor site problems or issues tend to pop up from time to time as you’re working on making website updates or changes. That’s why many web hosts will offer backups to help protect their customers.

FatCow offers them, but they’ll set you back $16.95 per year. That’s the bad news.

The good news, however, is that this upgrade includes daily backups (so the extra cost might be worth it in this case).

4. Too Many Upsells

Speaking of extra fees…

You know when you walk through the mall, and the perfume people lining the middle kiosks yell at you incessantly? It’s like a daunting gauntlet, and by the end when you make it to the other side you feel like The Gladiator?

THAT’s what signing up for FatCow feels like.

Brace yourself for the onslaught of annoying upsells that kick off immediately after entering your credit card number.

Many will find this irritating and off-putting. So consider yourself warned.

5. Extra Security Costs More

FatCow offers some awesome security features, like SiteLock, which can protect your website against tons of cyber attacks, malware, and more.

The extra security is just what you’ll want if you want to ensure that your website doesn’t get blacklisted.

But there’s just one catch…and it’s a big one. You have to be willing to pay for it.

And full protection (which includes daily malware and vulnerability scans, automatic malware removal, a web application firewall, and more) costs as much as $38.75 per month.

fatcow security

Other competitors offer the same kinds of security features for no extra fee.

 

FatCow Pricing, Hosting Plans & Quick Facts

Here’s a quick overview of the plans offered by FatCow:

Cheap Sheep Hosting: This unbelievably low priced offer isn’t easy to find (as it’s not advertised on their homepage). Many other online review sites also don’t cover it, so we went the extra mile to dig this up for you. It’s only $9 annually (that’s a shockingly low $0.75 / month) for the first year. After that, it renews at just $20 annually. So still a good deal!

This officially makes FatCow the cheapest web host out there. Click here to see for yourself.

This plan comes with a free domain name, 2GB storage, 200GB bandwidth, integration with WordPress and other popular CMSs and a $100 Google Adwords and Yahoo + Bing bonus. It is also covered by their 30 days money back guarantee.

Shared Hosting: FatCow has one simplified shared hosting plan that costs $49 per year for the fast year. After the first year, you’ll have to renew at a rate of up to $10.99 per month depending on the renewal term you select.

This plan includes unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth and unlimited mailboxes. It also comes with a free domain name, website builder and integrations with popular CMSs and shopping carts.

fatcow hosting pricing

  • Free domain? Yes.
  • Ease of Signup: Simple, two-step sign up process.
  • Payment Methods: Credit Card, PayPal.
  • Hidden Fees and Clauses: $35 early cancellation fee. They only refund orders made by Credit Card. Upon sign up, you agree not to use “excessive” amounts of CPU processing. They do not specify what they mean by “excessive.”
  • Upsells: Lots of upsells. LOTS.
  • Account Activation: Instant Activation.
  • Control Panel and Dashboard Experience: Their own customized control panel.
  • Installation of Apps and CMSs (WordPress, Joomla, etc.): WordPress and other popular CMSs and apps can be installed via InstallCentral in their control panel. Mojo Marketplace is also available for quick installation of apps.

 

Do We Recommend FatCow Hosting?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Their pricing is relatively honest (+ bonus points for cheap).

They even have a fun, whimsical name. But unfortunately, it’s a little too accurate. And across the board, they’re a bit too average for us.

Their uptime is slightly below average, support is inconsistent, their page speeds are terribly slow, and there’s too many upsells or extra fees (like the early cancellation one).

You’d be better off looking at other options. Here’s best web hosting providers on HostingFacts.com.

What’s good about FatCow?

  • Consistent customer support
  • Pricing is upfront and honest
  • Free website transfers and domain names
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Eco-friendly web host
  • Free web icons

What’s bad about FatCow?

  • Average uptime of 99.77%
  • Loading times are much slower than the industry average (1,262ms )
  • Cancellation could cost you
  • Backups aren’t free
  • Tons of upsells

Do you have any experience using FatCow? If so, we’d love to hear about it! Please leave an honest and transparent review below, either positive or negative.

 

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15 user reviews for FatCow

25/100 — 

Just left fatcow after 6 years - NO honest pricing!

I also started with a special offer, paid about $ 75 for 2 years in 2012. Where I come from (Europe) contracts can NOT simply increase in price without notice, but truthfully we were super busy at the time the next 2-year payments came up and did not watch the invoices closely enough. So I had to pay $ 211.40 in 2014, $ 286.80 in 2016, and this year -- as I watched my account early enough to be able to make a move -- I was supposed to pay $ 334.80 (I wish there was an ALL CAPS option for numbers).
I will move my sites to a faster European host, which also lets me use free letsencrypt SSL certificates ($ 75.- 7 y at fatcow), for EUR 59.40 a year. The fatcow support team ended up offering me a 2 year plan for $ 190.80, but at this point I feel so taken advantage of that I rather go through the pain of moving 3 sites.
I also had my sites suspended a couple of times for a spamming script, despite all the security measures I took – which has NEVER happened on any of the other 30 sites I am looking out for for friends and clients hosted by different companies. Made me feel like they tried to force me into their security upsell programs.
Other than that I found their (Indian) support team very helpful and available , so all of the 25 positive points go to their nice support team. Not their fault.

30/100 — 

Anecdotally Abysmal Support

When my FatCow troubles began, My domain was hosted through them, but was being managed elsewhere. I decided to switch over to WordPress so I could build my own site, but I wanted to leave the current one up and running. I had a spare totally unrelated domain on FatCow as well, so I contacted them to ask, if I built the new WordPress site on the spare domain, would they be able to assign the correct domain name to it when I was ready to launch? Of course, they told me, and gave me a price of $100 to do it. So, when it was time to make the switch, I hired them rather than muddle through it myself. I was told I’d have the new domain assigned and up in 48 hours. At about the 48 hour mark, I looked at my site – or at what was left of it. It’s hard to explain what I saw – it had just kind of… crumbled. I called FatCow, alarmed. I asked to speak to the person who was actually doing the work but was told they don’t allow that, and I would have to relay communication through the customer service rep. He got in touch with the technician who was working on my project, who said – ready for this? – It was impossible to assign the domain name to the website I’d built because of “broken code” in my theme. Now, I was not nearly as knowledgable then as I am now (though I’m still a newbie), but this made NO sense to me. I temporarily changed the theme, and the “technician” (I am using the term loosely) said the SAME THING with the new theme: broken code on that one, too. The only option I had, according to FatCow, was to continue using the site under the wrong domain name, or build a new site, off WordPress. My domain could not be assigned to WordPress AT ALL (which kind of contradicted the idea that the problem was theme code). Now, remember, this is being relayed, so I can’t even say for sure that it’s what the technician was actually saying, only that it’s what the customer service person was telling ME. FatCow then refused to refund me, as it was “not their fault.” I called GoDaddy, and they had the website up and running with the correct domain name in 45 minutes. FatCow may have been a good company at one time. I chose them because that guy at GoDaddy was out shooting elephants, frankly. But he’s not at GoDaddy anymore, and I’ve been thrilled with their support (all US-based, 24/7 phone support). I love elephants, but I also love my website and would really prefer it to be in the hands of people who are responsible and responsive and know what they’re doing.

30/100 — 

Not Good To Run A Forum

We have purchased Fatcow hosting plan for our School’s website where we have installed WordPress script for main website and Simple Machine Forum script to run a forum for our students.
The main website was running pretty well, but for the forum, where we were getting 30 to 40 new registrations every day from our own students and from the students of other schools as well, it was not good at all. Our forum remains unresponsive most of the times and we get emails from the Fatcow team that we should upgrade our plan to host the forum as it is eating more resources.
As suggested by the Fatcow team, we upgraded from 8$ per month plan to a 25$ per month VPS plan. But the problem was still there, we again received an email from the support that you should upgrade now to a dedicated server which is $150 per month.

This time we didn’t upgrade, we downgraded our forum and now only the main WordPress website is running on the Fatcow account. We are waiting for our developer who is out of the country for a 2-month internship, after he came back we will move our website to some other better-hosting provider.
Overall, a bad experience.

60/100 — 

Best for the Price

I have seen many negative views for Fatcow here, but I would love to ask them if there is anything better with this price? I have purchased the Fatcow hosting almost 8 or 9 months ago in just $12 for a whole year with 1 Free Domain name registration for 1 year as well.

Unlimited Storage Space:
I have unlimited (Fair usage policy) storage space for just $12. Currently, I have almost 12 GB of data on my FatCow hosting. Which other hosting providers can offer this for $12?

More features that I have on this hosting plan are as follow:
Unlimited Email Address
Unlimited MySQL databases
Unlimited Websites hosting option (I have hosted 3 sites on the same account)
Unlimited Bandwidth (Fair Usage Policy)

There are no other hosting providers who have all these features in just $12 for the first year. Even iPage which is a sister company of Fatcow is not offering the same for $12.

In last 8 months, I’ve never seen that my website goes down because of server down issue. If I get a spike in traffic, then yes there is a problem as it doesn’t allow more database queries which limit the number of online visitors at the same time. This issue can be resolved easily if I upgrade to their WordPress hosting which is a bit costly.

Fatcow support is overall good, not the best. But support team always tries their best to provide the solution.

Website load time is slow I admit that, but when I’ve paid only $12, then it would’t be a big deal.

I believe when you are getting something for a low price, don’t compare it with Siteground, Godaddy or other high priced hosting accounts. If we compare Fatcow with Justhost, Hostgator, then I believe Fatcow is way better than those.

So overall, 60/100 for Fatcow hosting.

30/100 — 

Price Gauging

We have been with Fatcow since 2008, almost 10 years and we hated every bit if it. They always try to charge you more then what they should. Every year at renewal time we have to call them and go over the invoice. In 2014 we renewed for three year for $196, or $65 per year. We just received the invoice for next three yeas for $466. Yes that is correct three year hosting for $466, or $155 per year. Can you imagine that? Same thing happen in 2014. They sent us some insane invoice and we had to call them, when they offered us $196 for three years.
Their web site says: “The regular rate for U.S. ($) for 36 month term is $6.99 a month or $251.64 for 3 years, for 24 month term is $7.79 a month or $191.76 for 2 years, and for 12 month term is $8.99 a month or $107.88 for 12 months. So how in the hell they came up with $466 for three year hosting.
They store your credit card or paypal info without giving you choice do you want them to be stored or not. Nor do they give you choice to remove it. We believe they come up with these insane invoices and if you do not complain they go a head and automatically charge them.
Customer support we had reasonable experience, but the fact that one has to watch them like a hawks that they do not overcharge is pain and we hate every moment of it.
They should be avoiding loyal customer and not taking advantage of them. It is a pain in the ass to change host provider but we had it with Fatcow. We do not recommend Fatcow to anybody!

1/100 — 

Website? What website? Mine's always down

DO NOT, I repeat, SO NOT ever sign up for fatcow! My site has been down far too many times in the last year. Even though the customer service is available, you don’t often get to speak directly with technical support, make the process of getting help rather long and arduous. I often have to call daily or multiple times a day to continue getting assistance and get different information each time I call. This time, my ticket was closed (as if my problem was resolved), but my site is still down and I had to call again to get it escalated and re-opened. It’s now been 5 days since my website has functioned properly. I’m switching providers ASAP.

50/100 — 

Good for New Bloggers, Bad for professionals

I am using Fatcow for more than 5 years. I started my website in 2012 and since then I am using Fatcow. The main reason to stick with Fatcow is the low price. When I buy this hosting for the first time, the regular price was almost 99$ per year but on my first renewal I had a chat with billing support and told them that I can’t afford to pay that amount so they reduced the price for me to 70$ per year. (A BIG PLUS).

About a year ago, I upgraded simple hosting plan to WordPress Hosting, this is also very cheap and I am paying $12 per month which is almost $29 at BlueHost.

I would say the customer support is very good, during 5 years, I have only 2 or 3 bad experiences on their support when the support agent was not knowledgeable otherwise all the time I contacted them, they responded well. I would say, after Siteground I liked their customer support. I also had a few chat sessions with Hostgator, but that is very poor.

Another thing which is good, even on their cheapest plan, we can host multiple domains which is also a big plus. HostGator, BlueHost, SiteGround, Godaddy all these allow only 1 website on the cheap plan.

The bad thing about Fatcow is obvious, load time is very bad, but since I can’t afford a high price hosting so I am still using Fatcow. I also face downtime once or twice each month for 20 to 30 minutes on average. Whereas on Siteground my site goes down for only once during past 4 years (which I have noticed, possible that it happened on other occasions as well, but I was not aware of that).

Database connection limit is also a big problem on Fatcow. On a shared hosting plan, if I get 20 to 30 visitors online at the same time, my website goes down with error message: Unable to establish a database connection.

Now they are not offering free website transfer service anymore.

Though I am planning to change my hosting plan for this website and wanted to transfer it on BlueHost or Siteground, but not sure when I will be able to do this. Till then, this is best suited for people like me who want to get maximum in limited budget.

1/100 — 

SSL Scam Artists

Want to hear some more bad news? I just tried to implement SSL for a client, but was told that FatCow doesn’t allow any SSL certificate installation unless it’s purchased through them… at their extortionate prices. Funny thing is, they’re selling Comodo certificates – the same as the one I want to install. There’s no reputable hosting company that stops you from installing legitimate SSL certificates, well, except for FatCow… just trying to gouge more money from it’s customers. STAY AWAY!

1/100 — 

I hate FatCow

Horrible experience! All my websites are down for a week. FatCow sent me email at midnight “We have received the complaint from the third party that a large amount of spam registrations being generated through the website” (I had JUST 12 registrations on website for last week) and 5 hours after that they did blocking of my account. I had 5 websites on my account and they blocked all of them without real reason. I had contact support multiple times. This is worst and extremely unhelpful support in my life. They have no qualification for this industry. They have no answers for any questions. They can only make ticket for you but nobody will take care about your ticket. I had a lot of experience with multiple hosting companies since 1998 and this is worst case in my life.

1/100 — 

Prepare for Monthly Site Suspension

I’ve had sites on FatCow for years and I’ve had nothing but trouble with them. It’s just been too much of a pain to leave, but I’ve finally had to as my hosting bill more than doubled. So here’s a few things that I’ve experienced with hosting with them:

1. Hosting plans more than double in price ever time you renew (Over $600 for two years this last time). Prices are really not worth the service you get.

2. If a virus somehow makes it way onto your site, be prepared for the site to be taken down until you resolve the issue. Then you have to contact them to put it back up. If you use WordPress or Joomla, expect there to be random errors after they do this, which took them more time to fix. It may take a day or more for them to bring your site back up.

3. Expect issues if you try to change your hosting plan. I was going to change plans due to the cost increase of my current plan, all I got from support is a canned response about why my current plan is so expensive. I gave up trying to change plans.

4. SiteLock issues. I paid for SiteLock on one of my sites. Every time it was taken down it took SiteLock off and it would take support a week to understand that it was messed up and fix it. They’d tell me I didn’t pay for it.

I just got tried of the constantly having my site taken down and messed up once it was reinstated. It was just issue after issue.

1/100 — 

Really old servers, cpanel and bad customer service

I signed up for fatcow’s shared hosting plan and was really disappointed with their servers and support. My website, that was working fine with other hosting providers stopped working on their servers. I spent hours debugging it and later realized it was not worth it and that I could get better services elsewhere. When I asked for a refund during the 30 day money back guarantee, they told me they will deduct $15 for the domain even after I told them I don’t want the free domain that comes with the registration.

10/100 — 

Fatcow is HORRIBLE

Fatcow started off fine. I paid extra for the better support team and liked it. However, the last few months were horrible. They now send me to the lower support team, even though I paid for the better one. When I ask for the better team they sometimes refuse or give me some other story. Also there site backup and restore does not work. It just messes up your site with conflicting files. Even when I tried to do this over the phone with a support team, they could not get it to work.

They just don’t care and I’m never giving them another dime.

1/100 — 

Cheap Sheep -- not so cheap

They are shysters. The plan says it will renew at $20 a year. they renewed it at nearly EIGHT times the cost two times in a row. I fought the first one and won, now they say they had to raise the price “to be competitive.”

Their promo page *clearly* states it will renew at $20 a year and they do not send out a bill telling you the amount before hand. I was running a minor site (a splash page really) as a favor for a friend and not willing to pay such an exorbitant hosting fee. I was willing to deal with (and just delete) all the upsells as there are indeed many — do yourself a favor and just AVOID.

49/100 — 

Could be better...

Having used FatCow for 5 years, I’ve just had my renewal price doubled! That’s $155.00 a year now and although throughout the 5 years I’ve had very issues, the price is simply not worth it.

I held 3 accounts personally and several more through recommendations, it’s simply not acceptable to raise price so considerably. Feature wise; FatCow has hosted Magneto, WordPress and all sorts of odd files and projects I’ve worked on with little to no hassle. Connection time can be a little slow at the best of times but certainly not an issue worth worrying about.

My advice, join for a year at the lovely $49 mark, then cancel. Using an FTP client is easy and all your files can be moved from one server to another relatively easily. MySQL database can be exported and back ups taken to or you can spend an hour waiting for support on Live Chat to try and get your renewal price down!

40/100 — 

Poor customer service

I have a client that uses FatCow for their hosting. Things went great till the site was locked because FatCow’s malware agent found potential vulnerabilities with the files. The client was paying for monthly malware protection for over three years and also for backups.

Via support it was told that the client needs to pay for the upgraded malware protection to clean the site. The existing plan was not good enough.

When I informed them to blow the site out and restore it from backups, I was told that they only hold on to 2 weeks of backups (fair enough) and it has been over 14 days since the lock was placed.

Long story short: Client was not offered a site restore when they initially contacted support. Support was more concerned about getting client to upgrade malware agent (SITE LOCK). When questioned why, I was directed to the SITE LOCK support phone number. Client is still with them, but I do weekly backups to an offsite location. Stripped off all the extra features.