Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) has been shown to be effective in acute respiratory failure of various aetiologies in different health care systems and ward settings. It should be seen as complementary to invasive ventilation and primarily a means of preventing some patients from deteriorating to the point at which intubation is needed. Generally it is best initiated early before assisted ventilation is mandatory, although it has been shown to be effective even in very sick patients. Important benefits include the avoidance of endotracheal-tube-associated infections, which carry an important morbidity and mortality, and a reduction in health care costs. The most important ingredient for an acute NIV service is a well-trained enthusiastic ward team.