A bit of background
We’ve been a paying customer for FatCow for 17 months. During that time, we’ve monitored their performance.
This review relies strongly on data, such as uptime, load time (speed) and customer support experience.
FatCow, despite the whimsical name, also happens to be one of the oldest in the business.
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?
We purchased The FatCow Plan shared hosting plan in June 2015 to do our own analysis and find out for ourselves.
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.
Quick chat with FatCow customer support agent
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.
Currently, they’re also offering some insanely low promotional rates. One starts at $1.99 per month (which is among the cheapest we’ve seen). While the other, is called the Cheap Sheep plan and goes for only $0.75 / month. Yes. Seventy-five CENTS. Check it out.
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 Days 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.
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 99.90% Uptime (Last 12 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 bucks this trend, but unfortunately still delivers a slightly-below average 99.90% uptime over the past twelve months. Not terrible, but not great either.
It’s also important to note that they’ve been showing consistently good results lately. Here are the details.See previous uptime - 2015 (expands)
- June average uptime: 100%
- July average uptime: 99.90%
- August average uptime: 99.89%
- September average uptime: 99.80%
- October average uptime: 99.99%
Last 12 months average uptime (2015 – 2016):
- November (2015) average uptime: 99.95%
- December (2015) average uptime: 99.93%
- January average uptime: 99.84%
- February average uptime: 99.99%
- March average uptime: 99.99%
- April average uptime: 99.86%
- May average uptime: 99.98%
- June average uptime: 99.75%
- July average uptime: 99.82%
- August average uptime: 99.85%
- September average uptime: 99.91%
- October average uptime: 99.94%
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 twelve months, FatCow had average page loading times of 1,215ms. That’s among the slowest page loading times we’ve seen across almost thirty 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.See previous load time - 2015 (expands)
- June average speed: 1,056ms
- July average speed: 1,169ms
- August average speed: 1,183ms
- September average speed: 1,055ms
- October average speed: 1,203ms
Last 12 months average load time (2015 – 2016):
- November (2015) average speed: 1,169ms
- December (2015) average speed: 1,042ms
- January average speed: 1,243ms
- February average speed: 1,262ms
- March average speed: 1,372ms
- April average speed: 1,370ms
- May average speed: 1,350ms
- June average speed: 1,227ms
- July average speed: 1,045ms
- August average speed: 1,177ms
- September average speed: 1,051ms
- October average speed: 1,077ms
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.
Overview on FatCow hosting plans
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.
- 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.
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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4 user reviews for FatCow
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.
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.
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!
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.