My prior hosting company was DreamHost and while a lot of people really seem to like them for the price, I experienced short bouts of downtime on at least a weekly basis (never any downtime with HostGator). I also had noticeably slower load times and they only have email support, no telephone or live chat. On the plus side, they let you create custom discount coupons and actually make profit by referring others to them. Other hosting companies typically have affiliate programs too although not as attractive ones as DreamHost.
(If you decide to sign up with HostGator, please use my affiliate link.)
I’ve even spoken with busy site owners who have said they couldn’t run their current site on DreamHost shared hosting without upgrading to a VPS but can run the same site on HostGator shared hosting with no problem. DarkMirage.com is one such site.
Prior to DreamHost, I was hosted with EngineHosting for several months. They were really quite good-fast, great support, etc. But their control panel was very minimalistic for me. I wanted more control over my site/domain. Their storage and bandwidth for the price is also rather expensive.
I also tried IXWebhosting for a few months and was sorely disappointed so I would avoid them. Very poor uptime and customer service.
For years (probably 10 years) before all of the above, I used Pair Networks. They were great in terms of uptime and seemed fairly fast although they were expensive for the needs of my new MySQL/PHP WordPress site and just couldn’t compete. When I just had a static site, they were fine.
Note-I’ve heard generally good things about BlueHost although I have not tried them and won’t because they are located in Utah. This means that they censor their customers and will close down your account if they deem any of your content ‘inappropriate’. I even checked with them and one of the pictures in my portraits gallery is not ‘appropriate’ according to them. I dislike the idea of this kind of hypocritical censorship (you can post pictures of people murdering others, but not of the natural human body for example), so I would simply avoid BlueHost or any other hosting company in Utah (ie. WestHost too).
If you have had any bad experiences with a particular hosting company (or positive ones), leave a comment to share your thoughts with others.
UPDATE (May 14th, 2009): BlueHost doesn’t like photographers.
UPDATE (April 2nd, 2010): Still very happy with HostGator, nearly 2 years later and there have been no issues or downtime.
UPDATE (October, 2011): Just re-upped with HostGator and still happy with them.