Finding a hosting service that offers just what you need it to offer can be a bit difficult, especially when there are so many of them out there. I’ve been looking at a variety of different providers recently, and recently gave Fatcow a test run. It’s a pretty fully featured hosting site that seemed to have quite a bit to offer. Like every web hosting service, it offers disk space, email services, and reasonable bandwidth allowances. Unlike most other hosting services, however, just how much it offers is variable, but as it turns out, that’s a good thing with Fatcow. The question is always whether or not the features are as grand and consistent as they’re claimed to be – so let’s take a look and see if we can find out if they are.
We have put FatCow to the test and monitor our website with the help of a third-party service. Here is the last 30 days:
The red dots mean that that day the monitoring service had difficulty reaching the site. It doesn’t necessarily mean the server was down. It can mean that the page was loading so slow that the request timed out.
According to this monitoring service (and it’s in line with this Fatcow review) my site has a 99.91% uptime for the last 30 days. Not bad, it’s exactly what they offer (99.9% guaranteed uptime).
The first thing you’ll notice when you hit Fatcow’s website and try to find out how much disk space you’ll get is that you can’t find a number. Instead, Fatcow advertises its allotted disk space as “oodles.” While cute, people looking for a precise answer might be turned off by the lack of a cold, hard number. If you take a look, however, you’ll see that “oodles” just means you get what you need, so long as you’re hosting a standard website that uses a normal amount of space. And by “normal,” Fatcow means the amount of space 99.95% of their customers’ individual and small business websites. Put another way, anyone hosting data for a huge organization, file sharing, or saving a lot of multimedia to the servers might find him or herself in trouble regarding disk space. Otherwise, you should be good. For my part, I never had issues with Fatcow’s disk space allowances. My personal website was well-served and data storage was never an issue, so they get full marks for that.
Bandwidth allowance, like disk space, is advertised as “oodles,” but by now that should be more exciting than frustrating. Fatcow gives its users as much bandwidth as they need, and apparently, the only users who tend to exceed their allotted bandwidth are those hosting file-sharing websites or multimedia websites with heavy traffic. Standard individual sites that are just collections of web pages, offsite videos, and limited on-server multimedia are almost always okay. Again, I was pleased with my bandwidth allowance, as my site was served one hundred percent of the time and I was never notified of bandwidth violations. The only thing I might comment on regarding bandwidth was that service was not always lightning-fast, but this could have been poor client-side service on my part and not poor server connection.
Hosted Domains and Email
By now, you should know what you’ll see if you look for the number of domains you can host and email accounts you can create. If you guessed “oodles,” you’d be right. Fatcow allows you to create an unlimited number of domains and POP email accounts, which is pretty cool, and very useful. The downside here is that the email accounts can only store up to 250Mb of information, or 10,000 messages – whichever comes first. This restricts your ability to use them for the transfer of large files, but for simple message exchange between site administrators or between site members, it does the job.
A nice feature of Fatcow is the ability to create an unlimited number of MySQL databases. This allows users to keep all the information they need on editable and easily accessible databases without having to worry about blending them or approaching a host limit. This can be extremely useful for wiki-style sites, blogs with extensive archives, or individual sites with a huge number of posts (like mine, a literary portfolio with many, many pieces, reviews, open letters, and discussions). This is also immensely useful for ecommerce sites, which can benefit from having comprehensive databases for the entire store, and sub-databases that store information on each class of products, inventory, sales, and other such information. Speaking of websites . . .
Fatcow offers free shopping cart functions, which is a great feature for anyone planning to launch a site with an attached web store. Combining this with the unlimited MySQL database feature makes Fatcow a pretty attractive hosting service for people looking to launch web stores. I wasn’t, so I didn’t really benefit from this feature at all, but it’s clear that it could be useful to many.
There are a number of other nonessential-yet-fun free features that come with Fatcow service, like listing on the Yellow Pages and a website builder. Of the free services, the website builde is the most useful. People who have no experience with XHTML or CSS can still choose templates, modify them, and launch a site. Most hosts offer this, however, so it’s not unique, but it’s definitely good that Fatcow offers this.