Paying for website hosting is essentially renting space on a server farm somewhere in the world. When you sign up for hosting, you get features xyz and are allotted a certain amount of storage space. That is the same no matter where you go, so with that being said..
What makes one host different from the other?
This is pretty simple. Generally you can choose either Linux- or Windows-based Windows can handle a few file extensions that Linux based cannot, but other than that, they are pretty close to the same thing.
The speed of the server comes down to type of hard drives and processor in the server. While most hosts will not tell you the processor in their servers, it is a pretty safe bet that any reputable host will use decent processors in their servers. What has recently become a bigger deal is type of hard drives. A lot of hosts are switching to a full solid-state hard drive array as opposed to the older, mechanical hard drives. With no moving parts, solid-state drives can achieve read and write speeds that mechanical drives couldn’t touch.
The cPanel of your host is where you can access the files of your website, add email accounts, check website stats and get into your data base. cPanel is the most widely used host back end as it is the most stable and easiest to use. That being said, most of our clients do not even need access to the cPanel. We manage that part of the server for them as anything they need to do can be done from their website, or by giving us a call.
When it comes down to it, most hosts these days are similar with what they market. The most important things to look for are often the things they do not market. Make sure you are comfortable with all the specs a host offers before you purchase hosting and your website will thank you!