Let me warn you that shopping for a web host can make for a worse experience than shopping for a used car... if you don't know where to go. You'll find a whole lot of websites with a lot of nice looking front pages, promising 99.9% uptime, fast, reliable service.
The reality is that most web hosts are poor. Over the past 10 years, I've worked with almost 30 different web hosts while setting up sites for myself and others. Problematic webhosts are not an uncommon occurence.
More times than not, hosting companies will run their server resources as high as possible, putting as many websites (your website and hundreds of others paying them hosting fees) on one machine as memory will allow, and when activity becomes high during peak times of the day, your website will suffer.
In my worst web host experience, I tracked downtime for a particular client, over a two month period in 2010, and found downtime to be an average of almost 40 hours per month! Can you imagine?! I had a furious client that couldn't get her business off the ground. She had opted for the lowest price host she could find and unfortunately, she found one of the poorest hosts out there.
So who's my pick for the best web host? If you read my review last year, I gave 1st place to WebFaction as the way to go. Unfortunately, WebFaction has lost some ground to my new favorite web host, HostGator. I'll still recommend these two as my favorite and here's the reasons why.
WebFaction is a solid host for those needing a simple WordPress website and are pretty technically savvy from the start. They're not a great choice for beginners and I would definitely recommend anyone creating a website for the first time to stick with HostGator.
One thing I love about WebFaction is that they don't overbook their servers. I simply never have problems with my sites coming up. I have never had one minute of downtime and their servers are fast.
The bad? While having some very technical people on board and answering tickets quickly, they don't offer the same level of support as I get from HostGator. On more than one occasion, I've had serious issues that demanded immiediate attention (one being malware inserted into my website code).
WebFaction did perform a quick scan but sent a rather diheartening letter (in the midst of my panic attack) that I needed to fix the problem asap or all of my sites would be shut down.
That's not the best customer service and a hard letter to receive at that point in time.
By comparison, I was working on a client site and noticed some similar injection code. I notified my client, who contacted HostGator, and they immediately performed a scan and eliminated the code from all of her sites, with a follow-up to please let them know if they could assist further.
Excellent customer service!
The other problem is with WebFaction's email system. You can't utilize the php "mail" function, as they use separate mail servers for all their email. If you're good with servers, this is a bonus but for the rest of the world (the vast majority), it means installing extra plugins for all your WordPress sites and rewriting your php scripts in a much more difficult manner, as well as installing PEAR just to send mail. It's just not worth it.
With HostGator, I installed WordPress and could instantly send email. I can also include a simple one-line command to email from any php script.
Expect to pay around $10 a month with most hosts. Some are a buck cheaper and some are a dollar more. Click the HostGator image to the right and get a discount on your first month. I recommend the 'Baby Plan', which gives you unlimited websites to create on your account. You'll want to start with one, but you, a family member or friend, may decide to create an additional website down the road and you'll have everything you need.
I do still like WebFaction. They answer tickets quicker than any other web host I've ever dealt with and that's always a plus. But, I'll stay with HostGator for most of my sites as I simply have not seen one disadvantage yet.
Whether you choose WebFaction, HostGator or any other host, do your homework first. Check out hosting reviews and keep in mind that the first few listings for "hosting reviews" (when doing a search) are often sites owned by the hosting companies themselves, disguised as legitimate sites to promote themselves. Look for real reviews from real people and make sure your new host is someone that will take care of you for years to come!