Affordable is many times more than the price tag
"Some people tend to go for freebies, but would you take free eggs if they were offered on the parking lot of a supermarket? I know I wouldn't".
What is affordable anyway? At first, you could think it solely depends on the price. In most cases you end up realizing it's rather far away from that. Taking the cheapest hosting service on internet is not far away from buying the cheapest house or a car available. I know you wouldn't do that so read on and i'll explain why you shouldn't get the cheapest hosting service provider either.
There are many hosting companies out there offering web hosting for ridiculous prices. They offer everything unlimited for only 5.95 per month. At the same time they talk about global sales, special trained staff, fiberoptics, fully redundant cisco networks and so on but how can they get all the money for building the infrastructure, equipment and training then? Not from hosting. You can see it from their price tag.
While these companies render themselves economically unwit by the promises that are proved to be impossible, they also reaveal their true knowledge of technology by claiming to offer unlimited anything. The truth is, nothing is unlimited, except outer space, and this we are still unsure of. So unless we prove the space to continue forever and get it captured inside a hard disk cover, let's just assume there is no such thing as unlimited. Especially when it comes to bandwidth and disk space.
The major concern when it comes to choosing a web host is the speed. Not the bandwidth or the disk space as you can always get more. But when it comes to server speed, or responsiveness, that is something that you cannot get with money. It's just what it is and usually gets worse by the time when the server fills up. If your host offers unlimited features with a low price, you can be sure that the servers need to be filled with a lot of customers to get profit from the server. And that means slow speeds which will never get any better.
The next concern is what you can do with the service. Many companies like to play safe and simply install everyhing into their servers and offer that as a single package. But what happens on a computer that runs ASP, ASP.NET, PHP, Perl, Python, mySQL, MSSQL, SSI and so on? In worst cases, nothing. In a milder variation of the above, something but not what they truly intended. When they get it all working, the server will have so many workarounds configured and security holes created so that it should be drawn out of production to be repaired. Unfortunately on some companies this doesn't apply and instead of being concerned about clients security, they're more concerned to get everything somewhat working so they can write all the fancy features in a single ad on their site.
The time goes by, they apply some updates and nothing works. They apply some more funky configurations and get the computer running once again. This game resembles a lot of the spring-games I used to play when I was still a kid, trying to get the waterflow from melting snow going where I wanted. It's not like you tell the flow where to go but where not to. No matter how hard I tried, the next morning the water was going where it wanted. The problem wasn't with the tools or the technique, but the original idea of getting the water go forever where it wouldn't go. This is very close to the idea of having all the technologies running on a single box. Cool, but doesn't work.
When you get your site hosted on a server with the above configurations, you'll force your webmaster coding in a broken environment. Many times with old drivers because the new ones caused problems. The code that the webmaster codes on the server is forcibly filled with workarounds similar to the ones in the operating system configuration. And when the time comes, that the hosting service provider discontinues their services because they were found to be impossible, you will need to switch hosts. For your surprise, the code won't work on the new server. Why? Because the new server doesn't have all those "special" configurations and "hot ideas" in the operating system.
At this point you will need to contact your webmaster to get things working. And pray the god that you can contact the same webmaster you previously used as he hopefully remembers even somehing about the workarounds in the code and why they were implemented. Getting a new webmaster would probably lead to rewriting the whole code. At least it should be cheaper that way. Sounds pricey? It is, especially when you take into account how much time and money were used with the initial code while coding in all the workarounds we're about to trash.
So when choosing an affordable host, you should search for a host with reasonable prices compared to the services they offer. This way they can afford keeping all the technology working top notch. This way your environment will be stable and working and the development on the server should be as fast and cheap as possible. Do not believe in marketing gimmicks like unlimited mailboxes, disk space, bandwidth or anything. It's not even possible and it only proves that the company is driven by marketing people biased to improving their own economy. Not the customer's. When it feels too good to be true, then it is exactly that.
Jani Hyytiäinen, Technical Manager : Codepic Solutions - http://www.codepic.net