By Mike Tomlinson, Director of Small Business, EE

IT security is evolving. The fear of viruses, hackers and headline-grabbing data breaches has previously kept businesses in the mindset of ‘locking down’ their assets and data. However, as small businesses move into the post-PC era, away from the traditional desktop environment and into the superfast mobile age, their security needs are suddenly becoming more diverse.

According to our research, over the last year, almost 10 million mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops holding sensitive business data have been lost by employees across Britain. One in five (19 per cent) employees say they lost their mobile device on a work night out, while one in six (16 per cent) left it on public transport. Devices were also commonly left in taxis and public toilets.

Here are three key ways small businesses can protect themselves:

1. Protect critical company data
Encouraging employees to set strong passwords on devices is a good first step, but companies also need stronger protection if company data is kept on mobile devices. When it comes to accessing company files through mobile devices, small and medium businesses face many of the same challenges as larger companies. They need to securely deliver files and apps, manage the way employees use apps and device functionality. Mobile management platforms like MobileIron Cloud let small and medium businesses mitigate these risks by giving them tools to manage mobile apps and content that employees can use and access via their device, and the ability to remotely lock and wipe data from missing devices – minimising risk of data leaks if devices are lost or stolen.

2. Use secure cloud services
Using apps and other cloud services for business is one of the most powerful ways to unlock the potential that smartphones, tablets and 4G networks have to make employees and businesses more productive and flexible. However, the adage that a chain is only as secure as its weakest link certainly applies when it comes to mobile security, so businesses need to ensure all services they use are secure as well. Businesses should always use two-step authentication with cloud services, which means that additional personal information or a separate code to the password (usually sent via text or email) has to be entered before gaining access.

3. Replacing lost & damaged equipment to keep business moving
Small businesses depend on their mobile devices, and being without a phone or tablet for an extended period is not an option for them. They want insurance plans that remove the stress and complexity of replacing phones and tablets, while doing so as quickly as possible. Insurance plans like Full Cover for Business and Damage Cover for Business from EE offer small businesses simple claims processes that include [nurl=http://ee.co.uk/ee-and-me/network/insurance-and-protection[same-day or next-day replacement[/nurl] for both the phone and the SIM card. That way they can keep the inconvenience of a device being lost stolen or damaged to a minimum, ensuring they stay in contact with customers and keep the focus on running their business.