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A: The person who has used every hosting company.
I doubt that person exists. As someone who is building a new database of hosts and hosting plans, the best I can do is try to simulate that person. I am not there yet, so my general advice is to look at a combination of technical and business factors. Does their network have a pulse? Does their website have a pulse?
OoOo ya and backups, both UPS and gas generators to ensure I can stay online until the power is restored.
Pinging a hosting companies tells you nothing about them. Testing their bandwidth or network is not going to show anything either. The measure of a truly good hosting company is one that has excellent products/pricing/support.
You should be able to control all the features via control panels. You should not need their tech support. But when you do. They should be knowledgeable and friendly. Look for 30-day money back guarantees! I remember when I was working for hosting company X, we bought hosting company Y & Z. We had to cancel our 30-day guarantee because we were losing customers too fast. The 30-day guarantee is back now. But that is after firing all employees of company Y & Z and moving customers over to our own hosting platform. When a hosting company gets too big sometimes it is better to move to a smaller one!
Another side note, There are lots of Hosting Directories out there. But beware… some of these hosting directories are not there to point you to the best host. They are there to make money. Whom ever pays them the most gets the highest recommendation. When I worked for Hosting Company X, we paid several thousand dollars a month to bride our way to the top of several directories. And Hosting Company X still is bribing like crazy. I am glad I am free from Company X, one day I will launch my own company and do this right!