This is actually a great thread with great information. We are a hosting company but we will try provide some inside information and secrets that have been touched on already.
We believe it will go contrary to what many know but this is also based on our staff members experience working for various hosting companies. Sometimes what is behind the scenes of huge names in the industry would surprise and scare some of you.
Let us start by saying we are experts at what we do, not at marketing or making outrageous and fantastic claims.
Does it matter if a company promises 99-100% uptime?
No, only actual uptime matters so we do not focus on specific claims. What is important is the actual infrastructure behind it and disaster recovery abilities that some have hinted and talent of the staff running it. Are they overseas and outsourced staff or juniors (yes they often are)? The only real proof of this is past performance of a hosting company (do you see threads citing all kinds of downtime and delays in getting the service back up)?
We will also say that commonly the largest servers are most at risk to being hacked and periods of downtime.
Another example is ABC company promises 100% uptime and a money back guarantee. Some of these companies go down often and don't even have backup power, UPS or a generator so how and why would they promise 100% uptime? It is simply marketing, it sounds great and they likely make more money even with some refunds.
How about awards?
We have been approached by many "hosting directories" to pay large amounts of money to be placed higher, given a better rating and to receive awards so we do not find relevance to this. We find this unethical so we have not participated in any of those schemes.
We will be honest, unless you are an insider it is unlikely that you'll know exactly what to look for and which company is good and bad. Many sound great on the outside but the stability and service on the inside is vastly different and varies by company which usually only insiders or employees know about.
We're glad to answer any specific questions that people have about the hosting industry and hope this provides some insight into the situation.