A paddle boat is great for fun on a day off! But would you consider taking it to open sea? A cruise ship on other hand is ideally suited for pampering its guests with every facility imaginable for vacation of your dreams!
Applying this analogy to web hosting can help you make a wise decision if you are currently 1) new to internet business and looking for that first web host, or 2) up and running but thinking time has come to upgrade to a higher level.
Web hosts fall generally into 3 categories. They are: 1) Free Services 2) Budget Hosts (under $20-25 per month) 3) Full Service ($25+ per month)
Let's take a look at each category.
1. Free Services If you want to run a home page for personal interest for family and friends, great! If you want to ease into internet cautiously, great. Tripod.com offer a good free service with reasonable support. Or check out: http://zap.to/1freewebpage/ for a good listing of what's available.
In short, if you merely want to paddle around, have a little fun, gain some experience, these services are fine. For serious business however you really need your own domain name, not someone else's. Tripod takes edge off by allowing your name to come first in URL, e.g. http://yourname.tripod.com
Having said that, you can't get away from fact that your credibility as a business takes a hit when clients see this kind of domain name.
2. Budget Hosts You get what you pay for, generally. Many may knock value of budget hosts. If you are running a serious business, then probably this kind of package would not give enough stability or features.
Consider following first-hand nightmare experience: "One popular low-cost host left my entire site dead for over a week while I scrambled frantically to save my business. Heck, I couldn't even reach anyone or get them to return my plea for help. When dust settled, they had lost backups of my entire site and I was left to fend for myself." - Ken (Internet Marketing Challenge)
On other hand, you may find my experience helpful in your decision making. I am running a resource site at present containing information pages and some doorway pages. I don't sell from my site. I don't need a secure ordering page. For my purpose in running this particular domain, a budget host is fine. However, I ran a check on it some months back using free service at http://hostwatcher.com.