- Secure access to the control panel via HTTPS / SSL. [Some of the hosting company’s customer support feels http is secure, and I shouldn’t worry about someone hacking my website if they have access to my control panel’s user id and password. They think they need access to your local computer to get your control panel’s id and password but without SSL or HTTPs your user-id and passwords travels in clear text over wire and all a hacker needs is a sniffer or network tracing software to get your user id and password to control panel, always go for secure access to control panel. Ask for the demo login and if it starts with https:// you are secure but if starts with http:// it's not secure. You can also check with them if there is a way to access your control panel securely sometimes it can be just http://www.yourdomain.com/securecontrolpanel (where http://www.yourdomain.com/ is your domain. You need to ask.)].
- Network Reliability.
- 99.99% uptime.
- Fast network.
- Regular backups.
- Support for scripts (ASP.NET or PHP support).
- SQL Server or similar database support.
- Polite and knowledgeable 24 x 7 customer support.
- Good user and critics review (Always do search on hostcompany’s name followed by user reviews, you’ll be surprise to know user’s experiences. Sometimes critics do reviews but they never have to deal with them, they trust marketing things told by hosting companies).
- Email sending through feedback forms was fast and not queued up. (some web host providers uses smarthost which queueups emails, and I was been told it can take 5 hours for msn / gmail accounts, and forever for yahoo accounts to reach your emails, as they queue up and their smarthost technology resends them, I was more on using sendmail directly to send email faster. You can also search for webhosting company's name and email troubles. Always do background research. Always ask them if they use smarthost to queue up emails from webforms? or they send it right away? if you hear the word queue then hangup the phone.)
- Selection of free software on host and support for installing them.
- 200 GB of storage / 2000 GB of bandwidth.
- Proactive about upgrading the hardware and software, and done during weenends.
- Reasonably priced.
- Free 30 days trial (Inmotion.com has free 90 days money back policy, bluehost has 30 days).
Sometimes some webhosting companies might shutdown your site thinking you are spamming, but in reality you aren’t. You are just running a script on host that forwards email to your account or running a mailing list. I tried several companies with the help of my friend in several days, and cancelled their services within few days of registration and before 30 day trial period. Always prepare a website on your home computer first, make sure it works and port it and try to make sure all feature works. I have found bluehost.com (later I had bitter experience with bluehost.com -- Please read notes at bottom of this post), swirlweb.com, inmotionhosting.com were very good with very little or no complaints. I was surprised to read people’s horror stories with other providers (Billing issues, website shutdown without notice, very slow responsose time, slow emails, slow access to your website, sarcasm used by support staff etc....). Bluehost.com is so nice, I can’t explain. They have very good and polite staff. I wasted their two hours asking questions on phone before and after signup, their reply was simple and good. Swirlweb is also very friendly, offered me free 30 days trial without paying first, and i checked their webspeed, they are pretty fast. So always be careful on what you are looking for, and search internet for real user’s reviews. I found out best rated webhosting companies give poor services. Just read, read, and read before you buy. Ask for 30 days free trials. Inmotion.com has industry leading 90 days free trial. That’s very good. Always create a dummy domain first to try out your site and then host real site that’s way ask for at least 2 domains. However now a days most companies give unlimited domain hosting (don’t go for unlimited domain parking which is just all domains pointing to your primary site).
Some hosting companies sales guys were so rude they even told me why don't i go for dedicated hosting if I am so much anal about security? They could have written this in very polite way. So always talk to their sales people, support staff asking various questions before signup.
Some webhosting providers advertise to give you 8 IPs, 16 IPs, but their basic support is lacking, after all you are not going to make navaratna korma -- Mixed vegetables with these IP addresses. All you need is one ip which can be used with shared environment if basic support is available.
Note: Recently bluehost.com has changed their hosting policy. They do offer unlimited space but with the fine print one can have unlimited storage but not more than 50000 files. At the time of signup no one tells you about this limitation. But once you signup and once your site starts growing they'll try best to bring down your growing site or make extra money out of this situation. Bottom line don't fall for unlimited space. There is no such thing. I am quoting my recent experience with bluehost.com where hosted my site mypanchang.com. But then after the bitter experience I switched to another provider.
I've gotten a threatening email to reduce number files from 262000+ to just 50000 or else they will abruptly bring my site down by cancelling my account in just 14 days. I asked for extension but they won't give me. They were very rude and unhelpful. Just because someone has a large website and over 262000 pages doesn't mean he is abuser. He/she signed up because you offered unlimited space and bandwidth. If you don't want to honour your terms offered during the sale then just don't say you offer unlimited space. During signup this limitation wasn't there. So, before signing up for the webspace read fine print ask questions about bandwidth and storage. Ask specifically on total number of files one can have on the server. Go for 90 days free trial, and send email to their support staff before signup. After signup send email right away and if you find something not matching what they said during sales cancel contract right away and complain to Better Business Bureau and local consumer authorities.