2 Words: Great support.
Most hosts these days offer pretty much the same services, but where it counts is when something goes wrong. If they have poor support then it makes your life difficult.
I agree with Shane, good support is key. But you also need to make sure you know what you want and that they can do this before you sign up.
I know of a recent case where web hosting and email hosting ended up with different companies - one couldn't provide hosted MS Exchange, one didn't have C Panel for uploading a new WordPress site, and no one realised that upfront. Which should have been fine, but with a couple of errors in configuring DNS and REALLY poor support, it all turned into a major saga.
...the amount you spend on hosting and support is minimal compared to most other business expenses. Or compared to the time and opportunity cost when it all falls down (and you can have either email or website but not both - until they sort it out...)
Joel, are you looking for a website or a webapp?
I would be looking at what type of programming your site has been made in. I would also be looking at how much traffic you are expecting. I would research who is the best for your type of needs. Say for example, if you have a wordpress site, see if the servers are to date with the version of WP you are running. It you are expecting a huge amount of traffic, for a webapp do you need to get some sort of load balancing in place.
I would also Google the company's reputation for hacking. 55% of website hacking is due to poorly maintained/ budget hosting.
I would also be looking for a company that will work with you if you experience a lot of growth. Some companies make growth really easy, others make it hard. I had a customer this week, locked out of her site, as she had maxed out her space for her hosting. She should have been emailed giving her a warning, asking her if she wanted to increase her allowance. Instead, she lost 3 days of online sales. She had no idea, what had happened or how to fix it.
3 days of lost sales because she was trying to save some money by paying $10 a month for hosting.
In my opinion, look for managed hosting, as opposed for cheap DYI hosting. Get the support when you need it and advise, to prepare you for growth.
Support is key as Russell said, and yes most web hosting companies offer the same services - however its the quality of the infrastructure backing those services that ultimately makes the difference between a slow, unreliable host and a performance driven and quality host. Avoid the fly-by-night providers and stick with someone Australian based, that has a proven track record and is showing signs of customer growth, this means they are doing something right. Cheers
Couple of factors to consider
1) load speed of websites . Google is concerned about the load speed of websites. If your website takes a longer time to load , it is bad user experience and will also effect your SEO.
2)Hosting a website on a cloud infrastructure will give you a better performance than those hosted on a single server , Cpanel setup
3)Location of the data center , having it locally in Australia is better. Some hosting providers offer SLA and 99.99 % uptime
4) 24x 7 telephone , email support
Some great answers above. I agree totally with Russell's first comment, Great Support, its essential. Yep the other points made are all valid too, infrastructure, no fly-by-nights etc. Recommendations go along way so ask around and get people experiences. I'm not sure I agree with the must be Australian hosted for Aussie websites rule, we have always hosted out of the US and had no issues with speed, load times or rankings, maybe because our name servers are .com.au perhaps. Our host have 24x7 email support and for the few occasions they needed to be contacted they were on the case every time immediately and being based in an English speaking country communication was easy.
We have been with our hosting company for around 6 years and have three webservers hosted in various US data centres.
Hi Phil, I've thought hard about this one as I manage a web hosting co.s Partner Program :)
This is what I have discovered by talking to our existing and prospective partners, in no particular order.
Peace of mind. They want their client websites to be looked after, issues resolved quickly and good communication
Security and performance. Taken care of at server level so there is less to do with the platform (eg. hosting).
Expert, local support. This is a key one: to be able to jump on a call and speak to someone local who can address their issue, looking at their specific problem, and not just given them a canned response.
Based in Australia. For performance, compliance and better support.
Quite a few of our partners are looking to earn via referrals or reselling our services, as well as getting leads off us.
Hope this helps.
A good support is key, however, another thing to consider is whether or not you're creating multiple websites or just a single one. If you want to host more than one website than you would want to choose a company that offers addon domains. This allows you to host multiple websites under one account. I have yet to come across a webhosting company in Australia that provides an addon domain.
Web hosting can be super confusing the first time around. However, the majority of hosts out there are pretty much the same. I would recommend you go with a shared hosting plan (one that's under $10 a month), and also read up on the reviews. This will give you a good idea on the real quality of a web host.
Also, be sure to check out this expert roundup on the top web hosting solutions out there. You will find recommendations from 83 different bloggers and site owners. Along with the web host they are using and why they like them.