Full access to FTP and storage • Affordable pricing across plans • Proprietary website builder is easy to use
Frequently up-sells you on features • Not a clean WordPress install • Install times can be long
Since Fatcow has a small number of plans, most of which are attractive from a value perspective. With a domain name and unlimited storage, Original Fatcow is a good option for a beginner looking to launch his or her first site.
There’s no shortage of web hosting providers to pick from, so choosing just one can be hard. When you start looking at all the services out there, affordability and reliability quickly become the most important factors. Web hosting service provider Fatcow tries to stand out with a small number of feature-packed affordable plans that make it easy to start a site.
The Fatcow website looks like something out of the early 2000s, but it manages to showcase its whole line of services in a clear way. Shared hosting, WordPress hosting, VPS (virtual private server), and Dedicated Servers are the extent of the offerings. In addition to the plans, Fatcow offers various add-ons — from marketing tools to enhanced backups.
The main ways I graded Fatcow as a web-hosting service is on pricing, the simplicity of its plans, and reliability.
Four plans to create a site
Original Fatcow is a shared hosting plan that costs $14.95 a month (it also regularly goes on sale for $4.08 a month, and was on sale at the time of publishing). It’s a shared hosting plan, so your site is hosted on a server with many other sites. This means that load times won’t always be the fastest, but the service is generally good enough for most basic websites. A website builder, FTP access, marketing program credits, and support for content management systems (CMS) are onboard, making it straightforward to get a site started.
Fatcow includes unlimited storage, bandwidth, and email accounts too. A domain of your choosing is included free for one year. The notion of unlimited storage, though, is found across most shared hosting plans — so don’t let that particular detail sway you either way.
It’s worth noting that if you end up having a website that violates the terms of service, like hosting torrents, it can lead to a cap on storage or a service suspension.
The WordPress hosting plans are slightly modified, faster versions of the original plan. A custom control panel and automatic inclusion of core plug-ins generally improve the website management experience. W3 Total Cache and Jetpack by Automatic should help to speed up load times on the site. This comes in the WP Starter plan at $3.75 a month, while WP Essential includes solid-state storage drives for $6.95 a month. These drives make it easy to read or write data, which in turn delivers faster access to your site.
Rounding out the lineup is the Virtual Private Server (VPS) and Dedicated Server plans. These cost more at $24.99 and $149.99 a month respectively. You can choose the amount of RAM, storage, and bandwidth for your needs. For servers, Fatcow offers up a central processing unit (CPU) with up to four cores on either plan (the more cores, the faster the access). When your site grows too big for shared hosting, both of these are suitable upgrades. This gives the site a dedicated spot, but the addition of a personal bandwidth allotment makes the difference.
An almost too simple control panel
Fatcow uses a proprietary control panel and back end for its hosting products. This is the gateway for accessing your storage disk, creating email accounts, and building the website. Interestingly enough, you can access all of the sections from drop-down menus or by scrolling down the page to see the icons laid out. For a novice user, the illustrations will help you figure out how to get things done.
In terms of first impressions, Fatcow makes it easy to access core tools. For instance, FTP (file transfer protocol) and FileManger are front and center for uploading your custom files or a particular CMS installation. It’s not a landmark feature to make this stuff easily accessible, and slow load times for processor-intensive tools sometimes leads to frustration.
Adding to that frustration is the constant up-selling the Fatcow website hits you with for more features. There is an advertisement box on the right-hand side that cycles through different add-ons like Google’s productivity suite or a professional installer. It’s not only a distraction, but it makes you feel inundated. The ads also push down system settings and widgets lower on the page. And you can’t reorganize things to your liking.
Even with this constant push and inconvenient setup, in time, a Fatcow user can tune their muscle memory to the control panel.
Creating a website
Choosing a hosting company and figuring out the control panel is only half the battle to making a site. The more crucial aspect is building the website itself. While Fatcow does provide a free website builder, I’d stay away from it.
The themes to choose from are fairly generic and only support minimal customizations. Thanks to a drag-and-drop user interface for adding content, even a beginner can figure this out. You can have the site set up in a few minutes, but this builder won’t help you grow a site in the long run.
The install time can be hit or miss. I tried it a couple of times and the median result was 15 minutes. It’s not the greatest, but for such a simple site it should happen a little faster.
Installing WordPress, Joomla, or another CMS is the wiser move. You can pick from an array of third parties to find the one that works for the type of site you want. WordPress has a plethora of free themes to choose from for a personal site or even a blog.
Rather than having a WordPress installer built in, Fatcow uses a third party (Mojo Marketplace) to complete the installation. If you’re comfortable doing the install by yourself, don’t bother reading Fatcow’s pro installer options. Just choose the URL you want to install WordPress on and follow the onscreen instructions. For me, it installed in 1:34.
Unlike other hosting companies, Fatcow doesn’t throw you into WordPress once the install is complete. Mojo will try to sell you themes and add-on services. Furthermore, this is not a clean version of WordPress. Several plug-ins that don’t provide any real features are pre-installed. It’s not all bad news, though; the template provides easy access to your control panel on the left-hand side, which is a nice touch.
The Fatcow Original plan packs in all that’s needed for a beginner to launch a site. The price and a free domain make it an attractive offer. If you can look past the constant up-sells, I could see a personal or small-size blog being happy with the shared hosting service.
If you’re planning to use WordPress, upgrade to the Essential Plan since the solid-state drives will help you with a better experience in the long run.