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1) Up-time
2) Latency
3) Throughput
4) Server software such as SQL, etc.
5) $$$ -- transfer, overages, etc.

What else?

And is there a web site rating hosts by this criteria that is actually reliable and not simply a dishonest advertising site... or do you guys have any recommendations?

(BTW, someone with 150+ rep should create "hosting" and "web hosting" tags.)

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webhostingtalk.com i think is pretty good for finding reviews. –  Jonathan Nov 9 '10 at 18:49
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One thing i learnt is to keep away from any shared hosts that offer "unlimited bandwidth" because they aren't really offering this when you take into account CPU usage. Its just a marketing trick and it's dishonest imho. –  Jonathan Nov 9 '10 at 18:56
    
I don't know if this question is on-topic. I will wait more opinions on meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/524/… –  bigown Nov 9 '10 at 19:18
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6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted
  • all of the above, plus
  • no additional charges for additional domains - you're already paying for bandwidth and compute-time, the number of web sites is not relevant
  • 24/7 immediate support from people who speak your language
  • scalable service, in case you get slashdotted
  • sane, automatic handling of subdomains
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Comparing hosting is like comparing dentists: there are plenty to choose from, everyone has a favorite and everyone recommends his/her own. And unfortunately just like with dentists, you need to find yours via trial and error rather than others' recommendations. You can probably start with various reviews and ratings available on the Internet.

One non-obvious thing that I learned recently though was that these so called "cloud-based" services where you pay per resource usage can turn into a disaster. I saw how one poor guy received a ridiculous bill from his hosting company just because he was running poorly optimized code (actually a third-party Wordpress plugin). I'd say stay away from this kind of hosting unless you absolutely know what you are doing.

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+: some people will love a dentist, some other will hate the same one –  JulioC Nov 9 '10 at 18:55
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Second below up-time would be decent support.

Find someone who has competent 24 hour technical support. If your production box has a hardware failure at 4am - which it will inevitably at some point - or you need to ask advice on an upgrade - you need to know that you're in good hands.

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#1. Simplicity

I want a simple interface and a root prompt.

#2. Cost

I don't want an arm and a leg for Plesk, CPanel, phpMyAdmin, and a million other tools I won't use.

Any reputable web host will have great uptime, latency, throughput. Server software is something you add on yourself. #2 (cost) is up to you. Do you need more bandwidth? Do you need things pre-installed or setup? That will cost you. Most overages and rates are standardized and aren't exorbitant.

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I bought the domain with verio.com. Would you consider them a "reputable web host," or should I go with someone else, like godaddy, hostgator, fatcow, etc.? –  Michael Nov 9 '10 at 18:47
    
@Michael: Shared hosting != Hosting. Shared hosting is a bit different question with additional limitations. For shared I always recommend 1&1. –  Josh K Nov 9 '10 at 20:01
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It depends what I need it for...

If I'm building an application, I want to have easy access to the hosted database and I look for the appropriate DBMS to be available. As an example, I want to be able to connect using Management Studio for an MSSQL database.

If I'm looking for domain name hosting, I want to be able to change the DNS info myself, or create an A record.

At the end of the day, I ask: Does it give me the tools to do what I need?

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Thanks for the input, guys. There was a list of hosts & basic details about them on the webhostingtalk.com site, and it said hostgator is 100% green hosting, and seeing as how my web site will be about solar installation, that's a nice little tidbit that I can toss onto the site alongside my W3C validation tag. I contacted their tech support about a few things -- guy spoke English great, etc. It seems like hostgator is a great choice for me.

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When i said i think webhostingtalk.com is pretty good for reviews i meant the forum not the actual site (im guessing they could be getting paid for advertising hosts) so whenever you have a host in mind search for them and see what others think. You'll always come up with good and bad reviews for every host aswell so keep that mind too. Good luck :) –  Jonathan Nov 9 '10 at 19:20
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