Hard disk drive maker Seagate (NYSE: STX) bought the privately held Evault company on Thursday, giving the firm a foothold in the online storage arena.

The company will pay $185 million for the company, acquiring its 250 employees and approximately 8,500 customers.

Over the past three years, Seagate has been executing a strategy designed to broaden its customer base and increase growth opportunities by expanding beyond its core hard disc drive business into the broader storage solutions category, Seagate CEO Bill Watkins said.

The EVault acquisition is Seagate's third in the services category, following the purchase of content protection provider Mirra and data recovery company Action Front last year. All three companies are part of the Seagate Services group, aiming to provide on and offline recovery and backup solutions.

The acquisition would close during Seagate's third fiscal quarter from January to March of 2007 pending regulatory approval.

Shares of Seagate rose 12 cents, or 0.46 percent to $26.46 in Friday mid-day trading on the New York Stock Exchange.