When it comes to hosting a personal or small business website, two web hosting companies namely FatCow and BlueHost have earned the respect and recognition of a broad range of audiences from across the globe. So if you happen to be one of those who come to a point where they have to decide between these two hosting providers, it won't be very easy for you to pin down exactly which web host to go with unless you're able to decipher and understand the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each of these two hosting companies. My intention in this article is therefore to equip you with the right knowledge that can help you peek at the bottom and be able to make a conscious decision. Both web hosts offer an all inclusive web hosting plan, which in the case of the former is referred to as "Udderly Fantastic Web Hosting" using their famous cow related terminology, while the latter markets its hosting plan as "Professional Web Hosting".

 

(1) Hosting Platform

FatCow claims that the hosting platform exploited by them is fully redundant, comprises load-balanced servers, and has multigigabyte connections to a state-of-the-art data center which is owned and operated by them. They also proudly advertise the fact that they are a 100% green web hosting company that is committed to preserve the environment by contributing as much as possible to reduce the waste. Like them, BlueHost is also confident that their technology is what sets them apart from the others. They claim that they have a highly scalable hosting platform supported not only by their own data center but also by the custom-built servers that reside within the data center. In fact, it is the art of building custom servers from the best possible individual components that allows them to learn what works best for their customers over time. Furthermore, it allows them to diagnose problems with servers suspected of malfunctioning long before the problem actually occurs because they are well familiar with them. They have developed a technology to isolate the users so that their performance won't affect the performance of others. So if a user happens to be abusing the system by consuming a lot of resources, they can actually get around that and not cause problems for the other users. So in terms of the hosting platform, BlueHost definitely appears to be superior as compared to its competitor.

 

(2) Core Features

There is no limit imposed by either of these companies on the amount of storage space that a customer's account may use over the course of time. Here again, FatCow uses their typical cow related terminology "Oodles" to indicate that the amount of space is unlimited. In terms of the available bandwidth, both web hosts once again rival each other by offering unlimited bandwidth. This will set you virtually free of having to worry about the increase in the amount of data transferred from your website if the traffic to it continues to grow. With both these providers, you have the peace of mind that you have plenty of room available for growth be it the storage space or the bandwidth.

Although both web hosts offer an unlimited number of e-mail accounts, BlueHost appears to be taking the lead in this respect by including not only unlimited POP3 secure e-mail accounts like the former but also unlimited IMAP secure e-mail accounts. As far as forwarders and auto responders are concerned, there is once again no limit imposed by both these companies. In the realm of web-based e-mail support however, BlueHost once again appears to outperform its competitor by including 3 different Web Based E-mail Solutions as against the single one offered by them. FatCow, on the other hand, attempts to compensate for this by including a free Newsletter Manager Tool that can prove to be very handy for maintaining contact with your website visitors and perhaps incentivizing them to come back to your site over and over.

Both companies allow you to host an unlimited number of domains on a single account (multiple domain hosting is also referred to as add-on domain hosting). This can be extremely beneficial for you if you currently own a single website but plan to launch more in the future. So both these web hosts prove to be significant cost savers to you. Both these companies also do not impose any limits on the number of parked domains and subdomains. Other core features such as FrontPage extensions, custom error pages, site building tools, antispam tools, cgi-bin, SSI, Web analytics tools, and password protected directories are common to both these web hosting providers.

To summarize, in the area of core features, BlueHost appears to be taking the lead over its competitor by including not only unlimited POP3 secure e-mail accounts but also unlimited IMAP secure e-mail accounts for free. It outperforms the other contestant once again in the area of e-mail functionality by offering 3 different web-based e-mail solutions instead of 1. FatCow attempts to compensate for this by adding a free Newsletter Manager Tool that can be very handy to stay in touch with your website visitors. However, if a newsletter manager tool is not on your preference list, then BlueHost definitely appears to be more advantageous.

 

(3) Advanced Features

FatCow greatly simplifies the task of installing and maintaining as many scripting applications as needed by including an unlimited number of MySQL databases in its hosting account. Its competitor however goes one step further by also adding unlimited PostgreSQL databases in addition to unlimited MySQL databases. Furthermore, there is no mention on the website of the former host as to whether one click installs of some of the popular content management systems and other essential site scripts are available or not. This is clearly stated on the latter's website, so going with them will give you all the much needed convenience for installing applications that require one or more databases. Although Joomla! and WordPress are also offered by FatCow, there is no mention whether these applications can be installed in a hasslefree manner with a single click. As far as a Fantastico script installer is concerned, there is no indication by any of these web hosts whether it is available or not.

In the realm of programming support, BlueHost once again appears to be taking the lead. The reason is that its competitor only offers PHP 4 and 5 support, a CGI Directory, a Script Library, and Python. They however, in addition to these, also offer Perl 5, Ruby on Rails, as well as DHTML support. Although both web hosts offer unlimited FTP accounts, there is no indication as to whether anonymous FTP is available or not. Spam filtering functionality is common to both these hosts just like the majority of other companies on the Internet. BlueHost however once again outperforms its rival by including Secure Shell (SSH) Access functionality at no extra cost. 

To conclude with, in the realm of advanced features, BlueHost clearly seems to outperform its rival by including unlimited PostgreSQL databases apart from unlimited MySQL databases, by including one click installs to the major content management systems, and by including Ruby on Rails, DHTML support, as well as secure shell (SSH) access at no extra cost.

 

(4) E-Commerce Features

In the realm of e-commerce functionality, FatCow appears to be quite nontraditional in contrast with the majority of other hosting companies and outperforms its competitor too. This is because instead of including some traditional shopping carts and the ability to accept credit cards, it includes a full-fledged e-commerce solution entitled ShopSite Online Store free of cost in its hosting account. This e-commerce solution offers much more than merely the capability to accept payments online, in fact it is your one-stop solution to managing all your online transactions under one roof. Apart from the ShopSite Online Store, it also offers PayPal Shopping Cart Integration, PowerPay, and a Shared SSL certificate.

BlueHost, on the other hand, offers all the conventional e-commerce tools that can be expected from a good web hosting company. These include a total of 4 shopping carts including OS Commerce Shopping Cart, Agora Shopping Cart, Cube Cart Shopping Cart, and Zen Cart Shopping Cart. Furthermore, it also offers a Free Generated Certificate and an SSL Secure Server similar to its competitor, as well as Password Protected Directories and OpenPGP/GPG Encryption. However, it lags behind severely by not being able to include a complete e-commerce management solution similar to the ShopSite Online Store offered by its rival. 

To sum up with, FatCow should definitely be your choice in case you want to start your own e-commerce business. The Shopsite Online Store gives you all the needed tools and features to effectively manage all transactions with your buyers as well as the state of your inventory and your orders status. 

 

(5) Freebies

Both web hosts include a free control panel free of cost within their web hosting accounts. Now, among the broad range of control panels available these days, there are some that are better than others in terms of GUI or features or both. One such extremely popular control panel is the CPanel that is widely acclaimed for its feature rich and user-friendly interface. BlueHost offers the standard CPanel while its competitor offers a customized proprietary version which is very similar to the standard CPanel and also offers more or less the same functionality.

Both web hosting companies offer a free domain name in their package. However it should be noted that the offer is valid only for the first year of service for new sign-ups, which means that you will have to pay the domain registration fees starting from the second year of service. In contrast to BlueHost, its rival also states that the offer is valid only for a limited time so there are no guarantees that the free domain name offer will be valid the next time you arrive at FatCow's website. Also, there are also no set up fees charged by these two web hosting providers.

Free site backups are also included free of cost by both these web hosts. In the realm of marketing, FatCow clearly appears to be taking the lead by including $100 free credit in Google AdWords, $25 free credit in Yahoo search, $50 free credit in Facebook advertising thereby offering a total of $175 in free advertising credits plus a free YellowPages.com listing as well. A Site Builder is however included free of cost by both these providers.

To summarize, in the area of freebies, there appears to be a tie between these two hosting providers. BlueHost appears to be superior in terms of the offered control panel since its competitor only offers a customized version very similar to the standard CPanel. A free domain name is common to both these companies as is the zero dollar setup fee as well as a Site Builder. In the realm of marketing however, FatCow clearly outperforms its rival. So if a control panel is higher on your preference list as compared to free advertising credits, you may want to go with BlueHost, and if not then FatCow appears to be the right choice.

 

(6) Data Center Specifications

In terms of data center specifications, the latter host appears to be far superior as compared with the former. Both companies own and operate 2 state-of-the-art data centers, whose location is Boston M.A. in the case of the former and Provo Utah in the case of the latter. There is no information as to whether any of these two locations is certified to be in a disaster state zone. The size of the data centers themselves however gives direct hints as to which of these two companies is better. Each data center of FatCow has a covered area of 2400 ft.² with 800 servers in it, so this equates to a total covered area of 4800 ft.² housing a total of 1600 servers. BlueHost, on the other hand, has an operating facility comprising 50,000 ft.² which includes both their headquarters as well as 2 state-of-the-art data centers. The total covered area of the 2 data centers is 20,000 ft.², though there is no information as to how many servers are housed in each data center. However, given the enormous size of each data center of BlueHost (10,000 ft.² as compared to 2400 ft.² for its rival), it can easily be concluded that the number of servers housed in each data center will be at least 3 to 4 times higher as compared to that for its competitor.

The story however does not end at merely the amount of space occupied by each data center. In fact BlueHost doesn't seem to lag behind in the area of technology either. Its competitor states that they have a pooled server environment which makes up their entire network infrastructure and that they have dual big iron load balancers that help parse the site data of their clients. The servers used by them are however ready-made and no customization is done on their part. BlueHost on the contrary not only builds its own customized servers but also a customized Linux kernel. Furthermore, they have a nationwide fiber network that is owned by them as well as multiple 10 gigabit fiber connections to locations all over the world. In terms of uninterrupted power sources however, there is essentially no difference between the two hosting companies.

To conclude with, BlueHost clearly outperforms FatCow in the realm of data center specifications by operating a much bigger data center and by deploying customized servers, operating systems, and web hosting technologies. Because of this, their technical staff has a much greater insight into the actual workings of the individual components as compared to that of its competitor. 

 

(7) Guarantees

FatCow offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee and so does its competitor. In general, it is always better to go with a hosting company that offers at least a 99.5% uptime guarantee. This means that there is literally no risk in going with either of these hosting companies. The actual amount of downtime however can only be ascertained by reading user reviews on websites that offer unbiased web hosting reviews just like WHL.

The web host offers a 30 days money back guarantee which is considered to be a norm in the web hosting world. This means that if you happen to sign up with them, you are totally risk-free for up to a full month during which you may decide to cancel the subscription and get a full refund of your money. BlueHost, on the other hand, has recently upgraded its guarantee from 30 days to an Anytime Moneyback Guarantee. An anytime moneyback guarantee is an extension of the traditional 30 days guarantee in that it not only entitles you to a full refund within the first 30 days but also promises a partial refund beyond the 30 days period. This is equal to the total subscription fee minus the used time period hosting fee minus domain registration fees if applicable.

As far as a price lock guarantee is concerned, it is offered by neither of these two web hosts. This means that when you renew your subscription with either of these hosts after the end of the initial subscription period, there is no guarantee that the cost incurred will be the same as the one you paid for your initial subscription.

To conclude with, in the area of guarantees, BlueHost once again takes the lead by offering an anytime moneyback guarantee as opposed to the standard 30 days money back guarantee offered by its competitor. As a result, your subscription with them becomes absolutely risk-free in that you may decide to leave any time and get a refund for the remainder of the hosting subscription period.

 

(8) Pricing Structure

FatCow has recently offered an even greater incentive for people to sign up with them by offering a discount of 65% on their regular price. With this promotion, their annual web hosting subscription can be purchased for just $3.67 per month. If you sign up for a longer-term such as 2 or 3 years, the price drops even further to $3.15 per month. This appears to be quite a significant saving since there are very few companies out there that can offer a full-fledged plan for this price. BlueHost on the contrary has advertised a price of $4.95 per month on their website. However, once you reach the sign-up page, it becomes clear that the advertised price is valid for a 3-year term only. For 1 year and 2 year terms, the prices are $6.95 per month and $5.95 per month respectively. So if you decide to sign up for a 1 year term only with either of these hosting companies as most users do, you will be paying $3.67 per month to FatCow and $6.95 per month to BlueHost. In this context then, the latter appears to be roughly twice as expensive as the former.

However, keep in mind that the savings with FatCow will be valid for the initial term only! This means that if you sign up with them for 1 year, you can save a total of $39.36 as compared to their competitor. And if you sign up for a 3 year term, the savings with them equate to $64.8 as against their rival. However, after the initial term (whether it is 1 year or 3 years), their plan renews at the regular rate of $8.95 a month for a 1 year term as opposed to BlueHost which renews at $7.95 a month for the same term. For a 2 year term, the regular rates of the two compared hosts are $7.95 a month and $6.95 a month respectively. And for a 3 year term, the former renews at $6.95 a month while the latter renews at $5.95 a month.

So the bottom line is that in the long run, BlueHost has more to offer you in terms of savings as compared with its competitor! This conclusion could not be reached without doing a thorough analysis of the offerings of each of these hosts meticulously because its rival appears to be cheaper superficially.

 

(9) Customer Support Channels

Both web hosting providers operate from within the United States of America. FatCow states that the company can be accessed round the clock at their toll-free numbers (Sales 866.544.9343, Support 888.278.9780). These numbers are present on their "Contact" page, which also includes the options for potential customers of contacting them using form mail, as well as a Support Console for existing customers which of course requires a login. Furthermore the page also includes a live chat option. Similarly BlueHost has also given their 2 toll-free numbers on the Contact Us page of their website (Telephone: Main Line: 888401-4678, Outside the U.S: +1 801765-9400). There is also a link to their Help Center on this page which you can use to contact them via ticketed e-mail as well as live chat. 

As far as off-line support channels are concerned, there is an array of options available with both these web hosts. Both offer a knowledge base which is browsable as well as searchable. The knowledgebase includes tutorials that help guide you achieve a particular objective. It appears however that the latter is once again superior in terms of the off-line support channels offered. This is because apart from a knowledge base, FatCow only offers textual user guides and video tutorials. BlueHost, on the other hand, also offers a User Forum that can prove to be very handy for getting tips and useful information from other customers of the company. Best of all, there is a dedicated page that constantly monitors the state of the server on which your website is hosted so that you can precisely pinpoint any downtime that may occur and subsequently report it. Its competitor instead has more promises to offer to its customers in the form of a HeiferCratic oath which more or less revolves around their building principles of customer support.

As far as the location of their corporate offices is concerned, BlueHost clearly mentions the location of their head office on the same Contact Us page along with directions to it using the Google maps service. The address is:

Bluehost Inc.
1958 South 950 East 
Provo, UT 84606

 

In the case of their competitor however, I was unable to find their address despite trying hard. So I had to enter live chat with their support staff to find out the address. There was someone named Archie Scott at the other end who told me that the address could be found in the knowledgebase (ArticleID=1485). The address is as follows:

FatCow
70 Blanchard Road
3rd Floor
Burlington, MA 01803
USA

 

The actual quality of customer support of these two hosts can only be found after reading user reviews on websites such as this as well as other similar high quality sites. Despite the tall claims of customer support made by both these hosting providers, I was a bit skeptical and so I decided to contact their customer support using live chat. I intended to pose a total of 3 questions to each of these companies, the results of my live chat sessions are as follows.

 

BlueHost
Total Chat Time: 5 mins 14 sec

Dave: [10:57:11 AM] Hello. Welcome to our real-time sales chat. My name is Dave.
Author: [10:57:20 AM] hi
Dave: [10:57:25 AM] How are you doing today?
Author: [10:57:42 AM] Does your control panel have the Fantastico script installer or the Softaculous installer?
Author: [10:57:51 AM] I'm fine thanks.
Dave: [10:57:57 AM] We use Simple Scripts.
Author: [10:58:04 AM] ok
Dave: [10:58:09 AM] http://www.simplescripts.com/script_list
Author: [10:58:29 AM] Do you offer native in-house support to your customers?
Dave: [10:59:18 AM] We do. Our support is 24/7 through phone, chat and email. Our support team is based at our data center.
Dave: [10:59:44 AM] Are you interested in hosting for a new or existing website?
Author: [11:00:13 AM] yes I'm still thinking about it
Author: [11:00:19 AM] but have not yet made a decision
Author: [11:00:27 AM] okay, one more thing
Author: [11:00:51 AM] Just for my reassurance, in case I need to see you personally, what is the location of your head office?
Dave: [11:01:20 AM] We are in Provo, Utah, in the US.
Author: [11:01:31 AM] okay, thanks a lot.
Dave: [11:01:45 AM] You're welcome.
Author: [11:01:55 AM] You are on my list of potential web hosting companies and I'll be making a decision shortly.
Author: [11:02:15 AM] Thanks and bye for now.
Dave: [11:02:23 AM] Great. If I can be of further assistance please let me know.
Dave: [11:02:25 AM] Have a great day and thank you for contacting us!

 

FatCow
Total Chat Time: 8 mins 25 sec

You are now chatting with 'Von Kelly'

Von Kelly: Hi, how are you today?
Author: I'm fine thanks.
Author: Does your control panel have the Fantastico script installer or the Softaculous installer?
Von Kelly: No, we do not provide Fantastico but we do provide simplescript tool which similar like Fantastico.
Author: ok
Author: Do you offer native in-house support to your customers?
Von Kelly: Could you please elaborate your inquiry?
Author: I mean, is your technical support staff well versed with your data center specifications?
Author: And will they be able to guide me and pinpoint precisely in case any problem arises?
Von Kelly: yes, we are.
Von Kelly: Yes, we will assist.
Author: Or you have hired someone else to provide technical support?
Author: I mean some other company.
Von Kelly: No, we are not.
Author: So that means there is no intermediary and I will be direct with the support team?
Von Kelly: Yes, correct
Author: okay, thanks a lot.
Author: You are on my list of potential web hosting companies and I'll be making a decision shortly.
Author: Thanks and bye for now. 

 

As can be seen from the live chat transcripts, the BlueHost support representative seems to be more efficient as compared with that of its competitor. It can therefore be concluded that it is better in terms of customer support as compared with FatCow because of offering a User Forum and by being more efficient when made direct contact with.

 

(10) Age of the Company

FatCow clearly states at the footer of their website that the company has been operating since 1998. Similarly, BlueHost also says something like ©2002-2012 at the footer of their website. From these company issued statements, it is easy to conclude that the former is at least 4 years senior in the web hosting business as compared to the latter. In order to verify the dates on which these two hosting companies were launched, I resorted to the well-known whois tool: whois.domaintools.com. The tool shows the record creation date for FatCow as 29 September 1997, whereas for BlueHost the record creation date is 15 November 2002. This confirms that the statements issued by these two hosting providers relating to their launching dates are indeed accurate.

The age of the company in the case of the former host is therefore a little more than 14 years while for the latter it is a little more than 9 years. The length of time that they have been in business is a clear-cut indicator that the former company must be a very profitable and experienced hosting company. Although its competitor also has a significant amount of experience, FatCow is definitely preferable in terms of age and experience.

 

Conclusion

From this in-depth and thorough analysis, it is not difficult to conclude that BlueHost is clearly the overall winner since it outperformed its competitor in 7 out of the 10 criteria that were evaluated. The strong areas of this web host include Hosting Platform, Core Features, Advanced Features, Data Center Specifications, Guarantees, Pricing Structure, and Customer Support Channels. In the realm of Freebies, there was a tie between the two hosting companies. The only 2 areas where FatCow was able to win include E-Commerce Features and Age of the Company. To sum up, in the light of the discussion above, it would be rational for you to sign up with BlueHost. Their anytime Money back guarantee is a direct reflection into how much more confident they are about their service. 

 

About the Article

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