Fatcow is a web hosting company that now forms part of the Endurance International Group (EIG), formerly known as Bizland. Founded in 1998 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Fatcow offers arrange of e-commerce and domain registration and maintenance services, but it is principally known for web hosting in all its forms, including Shared, Dedicated, Cloud and Reseller Hosting, as well as Virtual Private Servers (VPS). And, like the vast majority of its competitors in what is a crowded industry, it offers its clients a Fully Managed Hosting Service.
What is Managed Hosting?
Managed Hosting can be considered as an extension of Dedicated Hosting whereby the hosting provider owns the equipment and leases it to a single client. However it differs from other forms of Dedicated Hosting because the ongoing management and maintenance of the server is the responsibility of the hosting provider, rather than the client themselves.
With unmanaged services, the end client is responsible for the entire management of a server; that includes the security, updating and installing software, configuring it, and everything else involved in running and maintaining a server. To use an unmanaged server the end client, therefore, needs to have a detailed knowledge of an operating system, the applications that run on it, as well as an in-depth understanding of cyber security and web hosting. By contrast, with managed server hosting, the hosting provider is responsible for all such issues.
Fully Managed Hosting is an ambiguous term because each hosting provider offers a slightly different version of the same service.
There are two broad types of Managed Hosting:
Semi-Managed Hosting: This is suitable for people or organisations that want to use the support and infrastructure of a hosting provider, but are comfortable with managing their own servers.
Fully Managed Hosting: By way of contrast, this is more appropriate for those with limited technical knowledge or expertise, and who prefer to concentrate their efforts on running and growing their business.
Advantages of Fully Managed Hosting
No IT expertise required: With Fully Managed Hosting, a company or small business owner does not need any technical knowledge or expertise. This is supplied by the hosting provider.
Enhanced Security: A prime concern for any website is the security of the database and the server. Hosting providers normally have extensive expertise when it comes to dealing with server security, more than any individual business owner is able to access themselves. Managed Hosts will perform security audits and configure firewalls, as well as providing spam filtering and virus scanning. Moreover, they continuously monitor and scan operating systems to detect and prevent cyber-attacks.
Data Storage: Every website needs data storage, and this requirement can change as a business grows and expands. However, the amount of disk space can be limited and making provisions for additional storage space can take time and money. Fully Managed Hosting can ensure that additional data storage space is made available, when it is required.
Data back-ups: Regular data back-ups are very important because of the risk to business of lost data. Whilst there are many “self-service” data back-up solutions available, managed hosting ensures that this is done correctly, and that data can be easily retrieved.
Cost: Unmanaged hosting can result in a lot of hidden operating costs in the form of system admins, database administrators, and other IT professionals needed to regulate and maintain servers. Paying for a managed hosting plan, whilst it can seem expensive, can be a long-term cost effective solution.
Automatic software upgrades and installations: With managed hosting, the service provider will supply automatic software updates and installs. The end client does not need to manage them continuously, which means that a website should always be able to perform optimally.
Scalability: Users may find that their website is struggling to cope with the amount of traffic it is receiving. Fully Managed services can help avoid this problem because accounts are offered server monitoring. This service scans regularly for potential failures or irregularities, and will provide a site with more bandwidth to keep it running, if there is a sudden spike in traffic.
Built-in caching and CDN: Two factors that can increase the loading speed of a website are content delivery networks (CDN) and caching. CDNs are a combination of software and hardware that ensures that content is delivered to users more efficiently without relying on web caching. With Fully Managed hosting, the service provider takes care of such matters.
Disadvantages of Fully Managed Hosting
Loss of Control: With Fully Managed Web Hosting, the service provider is offering system administrator directed web hosting accounts. This means that they are responsible for installing all the software on the server or VPS (Virtual Private Server). They are effectively choosing the type o server and what software in installed. In some cases, they may force the user to accept software and hardware that they do not want.
Alternatively, when they do allow a choice, the customer may want to install software that the system administrators of the host provider are unfamiliar with, which means that they will not support it. As a result a customer may be forced to shop around for a hosting provider that supports the operating system that they want to use, rather than choosing the one that offers the best value for money.
Unnecessary Cost: Some web hosting companies have the practice of forcing their customers to pay premium prices for software installed on their servers that they do not need. They may also bill c bill clients for installation charges for software which can mean an unnecessary increase in costs.
Additionally, Managed Hosting is suited for websites that experience a high volume of traffic. For start-ups and those with low demand, paying for Managed Hosting cannot be justified on cost/benefits grounds.
Fatcow and WordPress Hosting
For customers that are looking to get started by running a website or blog that is powered by WordPress – the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), used by more than 60 million websites globally, Fatcow offers WordPress Hosting plans. These are similar in nature to their best-known product, The Original Fatcow Plan, which offers Shared Hosting, but also includes a customised control panel, as well as pre-installed plugins and themes designed to work with any WordPress site.
Fatcow’s WordPress Hosting Plans
Fatcow offers two WordPress Hosting Plans – WP Starter and WP Essential. Both plans offer a core hosting plan, a customised control panel (CPanel), a selection of hand-picked pre-installed WordPress themes and plug-ins, including W3 Total cache, and Jetpack.
In addition, subscribers are offered unlimited disk space and bandwidth, free domain registration, unlimited email accounts, and search engine marketing credits worth up to US $100 with Google or Bing.
WP Starter: This plans starts at US $3.75 per month, and provides the beginner with all they need to support a personal WordPress blog.
WP Essential: This plan starts at US $6.95 per month, and is suited to those sites with higher demand, or which are supporting a business blog. Additional functionality includes advanced support in the form of access to Fatcow staff who are WordPress experts, and enhanced security in the form of a software bundle which is designed to actively eliminate malware. Moreover, it promises faster site speed through an SSD (Solid State Drive_-based infrastructure, and recently reconfigured servers.
It should be noted that the prices quoted are introductory offers only, and, once the initial term is completed – which can be monthly, 12, 24, or 36 monthly, then renewals will be charged at Fatcow’s normal rates which are:
WP Starter: Monthly – US $10.40 a month; 12-month term US $9.49 per month; 24-month term US $8.49 per month; 36-month term US $7.49 per month.
Other Content Management Systems
In addition to WordPress, Fatcow supports a limited number of other CMS (Content Management Systems – these include Joomla, Gallery2, and GBook. The pricing plan for these CMS programs is not disclosed publicly – interested parties need to contact the vendor directly for more information.
WP Essential: Monthly – US $12.49 a month; 12-month term US $12.49 per month; 24-month term US $11.49 per month; 36-month term US $12.49 per month.
Fatcow does offer a 30-day money back guarantee scheme, although a non-refundable domain fee of US $15 will be deducted for those who have registered a free domain with them.
All prices are subject to change and it should be noted that Fatcow have earned a reputation for the frequency with which they raise their prices.
Fatcow’s Fully Managed Hosting Service evaluated
Uptime: Although Fatcow does not “guarantee” uptime, unlike many other hosting providers, independent tests and reviews suggests that the vendor achieves performance levels above 99.85% consistently.
Customer Support: Fatcow has earned a premier reputation for the quality of its customer support. Their Moo Crew is available 24/7 and can be contacted through a variety of ways – phone, email, live chat, Twitter and an online ticketing system. Online reviews suggest a high degree of customer satisfaction with service agents reported as being helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable.
Additionally they employ staff with advanced WordPress expertise, which those on the Essential Plan can access as part of their customer support package.
Regular Back-Ups and Monitoring: Fatcow offers users daily server back-ups and 24/7 Facility Monitoring,
Restricted Operating Systems: Like many Fully-Managed Hosting companies, Fatcow is limited in the content management systems that it supports. For those websites that are running on systems like Drupal, Wix or Shopify, for example, Fatcow will not support them. In addition, they only support a certain range of programming languages and code. Companies with more advanced needs may need to seek elsewhere.
Server Location: Fatcow’s servers are all located with the mainland USA. This is contrary to best practice, and the example followed by many of their competitors, which suggests that to reduce system latency and the threat of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Server) attacks, servers should be located in geographically dispersed locations – in Europe or Asia, for example. In addition, the company does not offer users a choice of servers or operating system – like most hosting companies, Fatcow’s servers run on Linux.
Restricted “unlimited” hosting: Although Fatcow offers unlimited hosting and bandwidth to WordPress users, in reality, there are restrictions as to what this entails, and can lead to account suspension, or additional charges, in the event that a customer uses too much storage space bandwidth, or CPU time. It should be noted that the vendor does carry a warning that any users who hamper system performance can be penalised, but this is disclosed only in their terms and conditions, and not openly stated on their site.
Cost: Although Fatcow likes to position itself as a no-frills, low cost provider, there is better value to be had from other hosting services in the market. Bluehost, for example, who are also owned by EIG, offer 3 pricing plans, all of which start at lower rates than Fatcow’s – Basic (from US $2.95 per month); Plus (from US $5.45 a month); and Choice Plus (also from US $5.45 per month).
Like Fatcow, Bluehost’s adopts the tactic of offering attractive introductory offers, and then renewals at normal rates that are substantially higher once the initial term – whether this is for a month, 12 month, 24 month or 36 month period – expires. However, comparing Bluehost’s normal rates to Fatcow’s, they are, on average, 5% lower.
Additionally, Fatcow has earned a reputation amongst its customers for the frequency with which it raises its prices, compared to many others of its competitors.
Upselling Tactics: Another Fatcow practice that has attracted negative feedback from its customers is the way that it promotes to WordPress users’ free software and web app trials. These offers, which appear attractive, are featured directly in the Control Panel, and can be hard to resist for some unsuspecting customers who do not realise that, once the free trial period is over, they will be billed at normal rates for software and services that they probably do not need.
Other Fully Managed Hosting Service Providers
There are a multitude of other companies and vendors offering Fully Managed Hosting in addition to Fatcow, including the following:
IPage, LiquidWeb, InMotion Hosting, HostGator, JustHost, Bluehost, SiteBuilder, Domain.com, Sitey, GlowHost, ZNetLive, GoDaddy, Single Hop, PCM Managed Services, Enable Technologies, Server Guy, GigeNET, Eloquent Technologies, WaveHost, and EukHost.