At one time, paying for web hosting meant shelling out $15 - $30 a month to host a single domain name. You were allotted a maximum of a couple of hundred megabytes of diskspace and maybe (if you were lucky) 20 gigabytes of bandwidth. You were also given between one to five MySQL databases and if you needed more then you had to pay extra (or create extra tables on one of your existing databases). On top of this you had to pay extra for Frontpage extensions, ecommerce web hosting solutions and SSL.
Nowadays, you can expect more in the way of low cost web hosting.
Much, much more.
In fact, I would strongly recommend that you FIND ANOTHER WEB HOST if the one you're currently considering does not offer you all of the following features for less than $10 a month:
Unlimited disk space
Cpanel (state-of-the-art website control panel)
Support for Microsoft Frontpage Extensions (no extra charge)
Unlimited add-on domains (meaning you can host an unlimited number of websites on one account)
Unlimited MySQL databases
Unlimited parked domains
Unlimited FTP accounts
Unlimited email accounts
.htaccess (allows you to designate a custom error page among other things)
Fully functional and secure CGI-BIN
A variety of web statistics
Full scripting support including PHP, Perl, SSI, Python and Ruby on Rails
Choice of several different shopping cart solutions (no extra charge)
Fantastico Script Installer (allowing you to easily install blogs, content managements systems, forums, etc)
A genuine 99.9% uptime guarantee
45 day money back guarantee
In my humble opinion, this is the new reference standard in commercial web hosting.
By the way, in case you're wondering, all of the above (and more) can be had at Hostgator (my web host of choice) for... yep, you guessed it... less than $10 a month (actually only $5 a month will get you up and running with a full blown hosting plan at Hostgator). And in case you're not into all that HTML gobbledy-geek, Hostgator also offers a free easy-to-use Sitebuilder wizard and a whopping 4000 free templates to help you get your site up and running with no experience necessary.
As for reliability, after having several of my websites hosted at Hostgator for over three years, I have to say that I am immensely impressed with their blazingly fast, johnny-on-the-spot customer support. My websites are my livelihood and if something goes wrong, I want uncomplicated tech support NOW.
Web hosts that rely solely on you submitting email 'trouble tickets' to get tech support to which they may or may not get around to responding to sometime within 24-48 hours just do not cut it anymore. If your web host is giving you this kind of service, once again I highly recommend that you run like the wind and FIND ANOTHER WEB HOST. I can honestly say that the new reference standard is being able to raise your web host's tech support within minutes (via real 24/7 live chat).
Oh and by the way, here is a special coupon you can use to save even more money when you sign up at Hostgator:
Use the above coupon to get 20% off your initial order (good until April 1st, 2013).
Just as an aside, if you're still pondering whether you should go for a free or business web hosting service, there has never been a better time to pay for web hosting. Commercial web hosts these days are offering up such a colossal amount of resources at such a low cost that, for the price of a burger, fries and a coke, you can maintain a small empire online for an entire month. I find that my new limitation when it comes to web development is not resources but rather simply having enough time on my hands to put all my available resources to good use.