If you're reading this article, then I'm sure you must be familiar with two giant names within the web hosting industry, i.e. FatCow and HostGator. However the idea of this article is not to check whether you have heard these names before, and I'm sure you know this too. You're here because you're unable to decide whether to buy web hosting from the former or the latter. Both these hosting companies appear to be very appealing to individuals looking to launch their personal websites, to webmasters, and at the same time they're also quite attractive from the point of view of small to medium-sized enterprises. Choosing between these two hosting providers can prove to be quite tricky and unless you're able to carefully analyze the attributes of these companies, making a conscious decision can be very hard. FatCow offers a single all-in-one web hosting plan, so in order to compare these two companies on an equal footing, only the "Baby Plan" offered by HostGator will be considered.


(1) Hosting Platform

FatCow deploys a load-balanced hosting platform with multigigabyte connections in its own data center. Their servers are 100% powered by wind energy. Its competitor on the other hand utilizes four data centers owned by The Planet. These data centers are also state-of-the-art and the servers are clustered. So as far as the hosting platform is concerned, none of these two hosting companies is able to take a significant leap over the other.


(2) Core Features

With FatCow, you don't need to worry about the amount of space your website files will be using. This is because it offers unlimited space which in turn gives your website a great deal of room to grow. If your needs for space increase with time, you will not have to worry about paying additional money to buy extra disk space. And even if your website currently requires only a couple hundred megabytes or even a gigabyte, you can use the extra space to upload any files you need for your home or office work. Similar is the case with HostGator and the amount of space offered by them is also unlimited. In terms of available bandwidth, both web hosts once again strongly rival one another by offering unlimited bandwidth. What this means to your business is that no matter how many visitors are trying to access your website simultaneously, your account will not be suspended for extra bandwidth usage. However it does not mean that even if your website gets more than 10,000 visitors in a single day, the respective shared hosting plans offered by the two hosts will continue to satisfy your needs. Obviously if your website gets really popular over the course of time resulting in a huge surge in the number of incoming visitors, you will have to look for alternative solutions such as a virtual private server or a dedicated server.

In terms of available e-mail accounts, forwarders, and auto responders, there is once again no upper limit imposed by these two web hosting companies. Consequently if you want a few e-mail accounts for yourselves and at the same time would like to allow your coworkers handling other aspects of your site such as SEO, client handling etc, you do not have to worry about paying extra money to buy additional e-mail addresses. You also get unlimited forwarders with both these hosting companies that allow you to forward the e-mails you send to more than one e-mail addresses at the same time. Same is the case with auto responders, you get unlimited of them and they can prove to be really useful in that are capable of sending an automated reply to any messages that you receive in your absence. There is however one feature where FatCow takes the lead, which is that it offers a Newsletter Manager Tool which you can use to send periodic newsletters to people on your mailing list. This feature is not offered by its competitor.

In terms of available parked domains, subdomains, and the number of domains hosted on a single hosting account, there is no difference between these two web hosting companies. No matter which company you decide to buy from, there is no upper limit on the features mentioned above, i.e. they are Unlimited. The last of the above mentioned features is very useful in that it allows you to host more than one websites on a single account. FatCow also offers CGI-bin, Server-side includes, FrontPage extensions, Online statistics, Customizable error pages, Spam protection, Website builder, and Password protected directories. All these features are also offered by its competitor. There is one major difference between the two however, which is whether a dedicated IP address is offered or not. The former does not offer a dedicated IP address while HostGator gives you the ability to add a dedicated IP for an additional $2 per month. However this definitely implies an extra burden on your pocket.

So in terms of the core web hosting features, there seems to be a tie between the two web hosts. However on closer look you will see that FatCow includes a Newsletter Manager for free, while its rival allows you to add a Dedicated IP for an additional price. So the company appears to be taking the lead here.


(3) Advanced Features

FatCow does not impose any restriction on the number of available MySQL databases. This is very useful when you want to install more than one script on your website each of which uses a different MySQL database. However, unlimited MySQL databases are also available with its competitor. Both web hosting companies allow one click installs of the major content management systems including Joomla!, WordPress, Drupal etc. So even if you have no web design and development knowledge, you can use these content management systems to jump start your own professional looking website. The latter host specifically mentions that it offers the Fantastico script installer while there is no such mention by the former. They only state that they offer a script library. Furthermore, it also appears that SSH access is available only with HostGator.

HostGator offers all major scripting technologies such as CGI, PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby On Rails. Furthermore, it clearly mentions that it offers unlimited FTP accounts. This is not the case with its competitor where Perl and Ruby on Rails seem to be missing. Also, although it states that FTP access is available, it does not mention whether Unlimited FTP accounts are available or not. The rest of the advanced features such as Spam filtering and Mailing lists are common to both these hosting companies.

So in terms of advanced features, HostGator appears to be taking the lead by offering the Fantastico script installer, SSH access, Perl, and Ruby on Rails for no extra charge.


(4) E-Commerce Features

Although the latter host offers quite a few of the standard e-commerce features such as an OS Commerce shopping cart, Zen Cart, Cube Cart, as well as an optional private SSL certificate with the purchase of a dedicated IP address, its competitor appears to be taking the lead here. This is because FatCow offers an included complete e-commerce solution referred to as ShopSite Online Store. This can completely take the hassle out of cataloging your items, taking care of the inventory, as well as shipping and tracking orders. On top of this, the company also offers PayPal Shopping Cart Integration which is one of the most popular electronic payment method over the Internet. Furthermore, PowerPay is also included in their web hosting plan. The shopping carts offered by its competitor however only allow you to accept payments through the major credit cards and there is no management of your store included. A free Shared SSL certificate is however promised by both hosting companies.

So clearly FatCow is the winner in this area with the exception of a Private SSL Certificate which is only available with its competitor. However that also necessitates the purchase of a dedicated IP address for an additional $2 per month which will increase your hosting costs.


(5) Freebies

A control panel is included for free by both these web hosting providers. Although the one offered by FatCow is a branded version of the famous CPanel, essentially there is no difference in functionality between this version and the standard CPanel offered by its competitor. The company also offers a free domain name, although there is a note of caution that the offer is valid only for a limited time. Its competitor however does not offer a free domain name with its web hosting plan, so that means that you will have to spend extra money on domain registration which will cost you anywhere between $8-$12 a year. As far as the setup fees are concerned, these are waived off by both these web hosting companies. The latter host offers automatic weekly off-site data backups while the former claims that they perform server backups daily and appears to be taking the lead here.

HostGator offers a $100 credit towards Google AdWords. It also offers 4500 free website templates and seems to outsmart its competitor in the web design category despite the fact that a Site Builder is promised by both companies. FatCow on the other hand offers a total of $150 in marketing credits which includes $75 worth of Google ad words credit, $35 worth of Yahoo search marketing credit, and $50 worth of Facebook advertising credit. A YellowPages.com listing is also included for free. So clearly it appears to be outperforming its rival in this area as well. 


(6) Data Center Specifications

FatCow owns two state-of-the-art data centers in the Boston, MA area. Their network infrastructure is comprised of a pooled server environment. They have housed 800 servers in a data center the total area of which is 2400 ft.². Furthermore, the site data of their customers is parsed by their dual big iron load balancers. Its competitor, on the other hand, utilizes four data centers that are owned by The Planet and are located in Dallas Texas area. The total covered area of The Planet's data centers ranges from 22,000 to 78,000 ft.². Although the data centers owned by The Planet are undoubtedly much bigger, it should be noted that HostGator only houses its servers in these data centers and does not own them in their entirety. As far as the HVAC, fire detection, and security mechanisms deployed in the data centers are concerned, there is essentially no difference between the two hosts. Furthermore, there is no information available as to whether these two competing data centers are disaster safe or not. So, in terms of the data center specifications, none of these two hosting companies is able to beat the other completely.


(7) Guarantees

Both the web hosting companies offer a 99.9% Uptime guarantee. The moneyback guarantee offered by the latter is however 15 days longer than its competitor, i.e. it is 45 days instead of the standard 30 days. So you have definitely more time to try them out and this can give you a clue into the confidence that the company has in its services. A price lock guarantee is however not offered by any of these two giant names within the hosting industry. This means that when you renew your hosting service subscription with either of these two hosts, you are not guaranteed the exact same price when you signed up with them initially. So overall, in the guarantees category, HostGator clearly takes the lead.


(8) Pricing Structure

The all-inclusive single web hosting plan offered by FatCow can be purchased for $4.67 per month if you sign up for a full year in advance. Signing up for 24 or 36 months in advance brings this price down to $3.67 per month. These prices are available with a 47% off promotion currently advertised by them. On the contrary, the "Baby" plan offered by its competitor is available for as low as $6.36 per month. This price is available if you pay upfront fees for three years in advance. Furthermore, you can also avail a month to month contract option, the price for which is $7.96 per month. And the good thing is that there is no set up fee even for this monthly contract option. This is not the case with a vast majority of the other hosting companies. The $7.96 per month price remains the same even if you sign up for six months or 1 year in advance. However signing up for two years in advance slightly reduces the price to $7.16 per month. It should also be noted that these prices are available only with a current 20% off promotion. So, although the former appears to be cheaper that its competitor, in terms of the flexibility of the pricing structure, there isn't much difference between these two web hosts. On the basis of cost alone, however, FatCow is clearly the winner.


(9) Customer Support Channels

Both web hosts offer toll-free support via the telephone, as well as live chat support and ticketed e-mail support. However the actual quality of customer support can only be ascertained after reading user reviews of these two web hosting companies. As far as off-line support is concerned, both companies offer a vast knowledge base and video tutorials. HostGator also offers support via a forum while its rival does not. FatCow on the contrary promises something to its customers referred to as the HeiferCratic Oath. The oath comprises seven points all of which are centered around customer support. They promise that you will receive a call from them within the first seven days of your sign-up. Furthermore, they also pledge that the average response time will always be under two minutes.

Although HostGator does not promise anything of this sort, their customer support is known to be of very good quality as evidenced by plenty of positive user reviews on a wide variety of hosting review websites including WHL. Likewise, their competitor has also earned a high number of positive user reviews. As far as the location of corporate offices is concerned, both companies have their offices located in the United States. Furthermore, both of them claim that they do not outsource customer support but instead provide in-house support based in the United States. Consequently, it would be fair to say that in terms of the customer support, once again no company is able to take a competitive edge over the other.


(10) Age of the Company

If you have a look at the footer of the websites of these two companies, you won't be able to determine the length of time each of these web hosts has been in service. This is because the copyright information is not of the type copyright 2001-2011 or something similar to this. Instead, on both the websites, it reads copyright 2011. So you will have to resort to some sort of tool that can help you determine the age of each of these two companies. A handy tool to do this is: whois.domaintools.com. Checking the two domain names on this tool reveals that the domain FatCow was registered on 29 September 1997. This means that the company has been providing web hosting services around this time. Doing the same for its competitor reveals that the domain was registered on 22 October 2002. It is therefore logical to conclude that FatCow must be a very profitable and reliable company since it is at least 4 to 5 years senior than its rival.



Overall, on the basis of the 10 criteria mentioned above, FatCow appears to be the outright winner. This is because it outperformed its competitor in 5 areas namely Core Features, E-Commerce Features, Freebies, Pricing Structure, and Age of the Company. In terms of the Hosting Platform, Data Center Specifications, and Customer Support, there was a tie between these two hosting companies. HostGator was able to win in only two categories namely Advanced Features and Guarantees.

In the Core Features category, the winning candidate beat its competitor by offering a free Newsletter Manager in contrast to the dedicated IP offering for an additional price of $2 per month. In the E-Commerce Features category, it outperformed its rival by including a full-featured e-commerce solution in contrast to the traditional shopping carts. In the Freebies category, it emerged as the winner by including a free domain name, by performing daily server backups, and by offering an additional $50 worth of marketing credits. In the area of Pricing Structure, FatCow emerged as the winner because of being cheaper than its competitor. Finally, in terms of the Age of the Company, it once again won by offering web hosting services at least 4 to 5 years prior to the launch of its rival.

HostGator, on the contrary, outperformed its competitor in the Advanced Features category by including the Fantastico script installer, SSH access, Perl, and Ruby on Rails for free. The other area where it beat its rival was Guarantees. It also offered a 45 days money back guarantee in contrast with the 30 days guarantee promised by the other contestant.

On the basis of the discussion above, I would therefore recommend that you sign up with FatCow because it is not only cheaper than its competitor but it has a lot more to offer in terms of functionality, reliability, and dependability. They have been in business for more than 13 years now which reflect upon their expertise in the area of web hosting technologies. And of course, if for any reason you're not satisfied with their service or you just think that they're not meant for your particular scenario, you can always get a refund within the first 30 days.


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