Although it should help the small states, the electoral college has failed in that respect. Small states that have solidly republican or democrat populations are ignored by politicians, because they only need states, as opposed to votes. Really, it makes politicians favor swing states. These are the places where the race is actually decided. Most small states are, in truth, ignored when it comes to presidential elections.
Yes, the electoral college is necessary to protect small state interests, because the electoral college has worked. In 2000, President Bush only won the election because of the electoral college. When he ran for reelection in 2004, he won without the electoral college. The voters in the United States are extremely conservative, and it is important that the small interests are not overwhelmed by welfare recipients in big cities.
Smaller states still have a sizable quantity of people and live in a much different way than higher population states. For this reason their interests need to be protected by the electoral college to make sure they don't get steamrolled by states which have absolutely no understanding of what it means to live in one of those smaller states.